Sports Business Journal and USA Today are both reporting that ESPN has made an aggressive bid to televise college football’s Bowl Championship Series beginning in 2010. According to the reports, ESPN has offered $125 million annually while Fox, the BCS’s current broadcast partner, offered $100 million.
Fox currently has the rights to the BCS National Championship game as well as the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls. The Rose Bowl has a separate contract with ABC that runs through 2014.
Fox has until next week to respond, but if ESPN wins out, it could be a very big deal, as it would move college football’s postseason to a cable network for the first time.
But there is another intriguing aspect to this, and that’s how it could indirectly make it easier for a college football playoff to be implemented. ABC and ESPN are owned by the same parent company, so if ESPN gets the rights to the BCS, the Rose Bowl would likely move to ESPN. Thus, all the bowls would be under one broadcast umbrella. How would this help the creation of a playoff? Well, some playoff proposals call for the bowls to be included as part of the system. So for instance, the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl could be semifinal games, or something like that.
If a viable playoff system is presented, it will help matters to know that ESPN has the rights to all the bowls, and therefore could seamlessly televise all the playoff games. One sticking point, however, is that the Rose Bowl contract last through 2014, so there would be some financial jockeying still required. (To say nothing of the fact that the Rose Bowl, Big Ten and Pac-10 have steadfastly opposed a playoff.)
Now, as for the BCS’s potential move to cable, there will be some people who complain. For the most part, nearly all of the truly premiere sporting events have historically been shown on over-the-air television. But that’s shifted a bit in recent years, with baseball and the NBA each moving some of their playoff games to cable.
ESPN is available in about 92 percent of all households, but that still leaves out 16 million households, or about 40 million people.