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John Skipper Says Four Super Conferences Are Coming

“…the Big10, who I believe just added the most populous state in the United States to their footprint, which I think has gone underrecognized in this move.”

Ricky Keeler

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With the reported moves of USC and UCLA going to the Big 10 in 2024, many have shared their opinions on what it means for college football going forward. One person who was at the heart of negotiating TV deals for college football and college basketball was the former president of ESPN, John Skipper.

Skipper was a guest on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Thursday and he made the point that an “arms race” is developing in college sports and it is clear that the Big 10 and SEC have emerged as the two leaders:

“Now we are in kind of an arms race where everybody wants to move to a conference in order to get more money. We are coming to an era of diminishing returns in terms of just being able to move somewhere and get a bunch more money. I think it’s clear the Big 10 and SEC have emerged as the dominant players here, particularly in terms of ratings and achievement on the football field.

The SEC’s rights are tied up until 2034 and the Big 10 is probably going to have 2 new rounds of rights negotiations before 2034, so they are in a very good position to get more money. With the streamers looking to come in, they look to take advantage of that as well.”

One of the things Skipper doesn’t think is being talked about enough in realignment is what states these schools are in and how it can help a network gain more money. He remembers first-hand the deal he negotiated with the ACC when Pittsburgh, Boston College, Syracuse, and Louisville joined the conference:

“One of the more important ones we did was with the ACC. One of the big moves made was when the ACC was in danger of losing its basketball prominence to the Big East and not seeing the same kind of increases the Big 10 and SEC were. They went and took Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, and Louisville to the ACC.”

“One of the most important factors is what state they are in. For the ACC, Big 10, and SEC, all of whom have their own well-distributed networks. Pittsburgh, Boston College, Louisville and Syracuse both created a diminution of competition in the Big East, but it also added Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and Kentucky to the footprint of the ACC. Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts represent quite a lot of population and those network deals are paid based on footprint and non-footprint. One price for the state and where the subscribers live within the footprint and the price if they don’t live in the footprint. I expect that to be the case with the Big10, who I believe just added the most populous state in the United States to their footprint, which I think has gone underrecognized in this move.” 

So, what could be in the future for college sports? Skipper gave out the hypothetical that if he were running the ACC, for example, he would try to see if four super conferences were forming and what it could mean for both college football and basketball:

“I would be calling around to see if there are going to be four super conferences of 16 or so teams, which I think there will be. How about we create four super conferences and do our own basketball tournament? I also think if you created four, 16-team conferences, you have 32 bowls and every team in the conferences would go to a bowl and you might even use those bowls to play the First Round of a very expansive College Football Playoff. There’s plenty of ways to get more money in addition to trying to figure out what can be done with Amazon and Apple.”

Sports TV News

Notre Dame Expects Next Media Rights Deal to be Worth $60 Million Annually

Notre Dame is reportedly seeking $75 million per year, while Sports Business Journal figures the school would get closer to $60 million.

Jordan Bondurant

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Chris Coduto

There are still a few more seasons until Notre Dame starts the process of hammering out a new media rights deal, but it’s believed the FBS independent could have its next partner shelling out more than double what NBC is currently paying.

NBC, which appears to be a front-runner alongside CBS to be one of the key rights partners in the Big Ten’s new contract, currently pays $25 million each year for rights to Fighting Irish football according to Front Office Sports.

Notre Dame is reportedly seeking $75 million per year, while Sports Business Journal figures the school would get closer to $60 million.

Viewership for Fighting Irish games was reportedly down 48% year-over-year for the 2021 season, averaging 2.5 million viewers. The year before that, the pandemic season in 2020, viewership for Notre Dame was its best since 2005.

Notre Dame remains an independent in football, but is in the ACC for its other programs. The Fighting Irish do play some ACC schools in football. With NBC and the Big Ten apparently becoming new partners, it’s believed that Notre Dame would then have more Big Ten opponents in football.

The current contract between the school and NBC ends in 2025.

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Robert Griffin III Replaces Randy Moss on Monday Night Countdown

The network announced the addition of Robert Griffin III to the pre-game program.

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Robert Griffin III
David Becker, Getty Images

With Monday Night Countdown set to lead into Thursday’s preseason matchup with the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks, ESPN announced their lineup for the show.

The network announced the addition of Robert Griffin III to the pre-game program. Robert Griffin III will join Booger McFarland and Steve Young as the show’s main analysts.

They will be partnered with Suzy Kolber who returns for her sixth year as the show’s host and news breaker Adam Schefter.

It was reported in July that analyst Randy Moss would not be returning to the show, opting instead to focus solely on Sunday Night Countdown.

The first regular season action featuring Monday Night Countdown will be on Monday, September 12 when the Seahawks play the Denver Broncos.

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Sports TV News

Leafs Nation Network, the Toronto Maple Leafs Channel, Is Going Off the Air

“Thank you for your viewership. As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

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The Toronto Maple Leafs launched Leafs TV, a team-specific specialty channel in 2001 and rebranded it as Leafs Nation Network in 2017. However, after nearly twenty-one years on the air, it will fade to black at the end of August.

“Thank you for your viewership,” the channel told viewers who have tuned in recently. “As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

The news was confirmed to the Sun. Staff said they had been informed of the news a few weeks ago however few jobs are expected to be lost, of any, as many of the LNN duties will be moved to the digital format.

Leafs TV was part of the sale of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise sale in 2011 to Bell-Rogers communications (worth $1.32 billion). With that sale, Leafs TV began to become a “redundant” channel focusing mainly on classic games and interviews once Rogers made a 2014 deal to become the dominant NHL network, grabbing the majority of live programming.

“Leafs TV was a big bargaining chip at the time of the (Rogers-Bell sale), but they’ve come to see that (lack of game broadcast presence) doesn’t work,” a source told the Sun.

A statement from MLSE on Tuesday read in part: “With new and increasing opportunities to share content on its digital platforms, subscribers to the Leafs Nation Network were informed earlier this month that the channel would cease being broadcast on Sept. 1. Maple Leafs game day and practice coverage will continue to be shared across the team’s digital platforms, combined with exciting new content on the team’s social and digital channels. The team will continue to produce live Marlies home games with details being shared in the weeks ahead about where those broadcasts will be made available.”

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