Expanding Eastward Could Dilute the Big Ten Brand

By Jason Priestas on November 20, 2012 at 9:37a

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hodge's picture

It's obvious that Delaney sees New York City as a clay that he can mold into a collegiate football powerhouse.  If you look at the growth of the sport over the last 10-20 years (25 if you're counting back that famed first "National Championship Game" in the Fiesta Bowl, pitting Miami and Penn State against eachother), you can see the sport's evolution from a sport with distinct regional culture to a vastly more homogenized sport (but still infinitely more varied than big brother NFL) with national branding, recruiting, and competition.  The growth of the sport since 1987 has been exponential; delivering prime time matchups and storylines, and taking all those distinct regional cultures of College Football and turning them into a melting pot and/or salad bowl (preserving some of the distinctiveness of each culture) on the national stage (doesn't that "S-E-C, S-E-C" chant feel like it's fueled by the fervor of 150 years of tension?).  
The Northeast is probably the last real population center of the country that hasn't embraced college football.  This is evidenced by the talent produced there (virtually nonexistant), and the schools that play there (read: terrible).  No wonder that fabled "New York Market" hasn't been tapped yet.  But, what we do know is that 4/10 teams that constitute the top ten draws in that market are Rutgers, Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State (and Notre Dame clocking in right behind Rutgers in that market), and that market has a lot of people.  It's obvious that Delaney's banking on the emerging football cultures of New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland (especially in high school football) to spread up that Northeast Corridor, and he's betting that Big Ten football can be the impetus that spurs it.  I mean, think about it: all NYC college football fans have had is regional coverage of Big East and ACC football; I mean, gag me with a spoon.  The Big Ten (especially if Michigan continues their upward trajectory) can spur interest, thus creating a Northeastern football culture that identifies themselves within the Big Ten (a process started when we scored Penn State in '94).  Now, when you factor in the absolutely ludicruous amount of people that live there--and potential high school talent that can grow up as B1G football fans (that probably wouldn't without its influence)--you can see why Delaney has this area targeted, and why he cherry-picked two up-and-coming programs (Rutgers is improving, and Maryland is Under Amour U) within that area to jump-start the process.
For such a smart guy, Silver's missed one thing here (probably on purpose, to fit his "dilution" narrative), it's not about how many fans that Rutgers and Maryland have, it's about how many they could potentially have.  If, say, Fox's acquisition of YES can put the BTN into every household in the Tri-State area, and the DC Beltway falls in love with Edsall's Under-Armour sporting Terps (think about it: they have unlimited funding from UA from which to build, and they are improving...slowly).
This brings us to a logical conclusion: if the BTN can successfully conquer that DC/NYC market (and Delaney obviously thinks he can), he's not going to be content to sit at 14 members.  16 teams sounds really nice...and he'll have the infrastructure in place with the BTN to add two marquee teams to the B1G's massive footprint (especially because of the lack of parity in the league; this makes it very attractive for elite schools to join, a la the SEC), which will bring more (already unprecidented) revenue, possibly expand the BTN's reach (especially with a Texas, or national brand like ND), and truly give rise to the NCAA's first superconference; while the PAC 12, Big 12, SEC, ACC, and Big East struggle not just to keep up, but for their very survival.
Emporor Palpatine Delaney, indeed.

Bucksfan's picture

Terrible analysis.  He does a nice job illustrating how small of a base Rutgers is in the overall population of NYC, but he fails to outline just how many fans of B1G schools there are total.  I guarantee there are at least just as many, if not more, fans of other B1G schools in that market.

hodge's picture

This is his analysis of the NYC TV market, per his 2011 article on realignment:

This should look like a potential gold mine to Delaney.  Four out of the top ten teams shown here are from the B1G, which doesn't even have BTN distribution up there.  The potential audience there, with BTN distribution allowing casual fans without access to their preferred B1G teams, is outrageous.

William's picture

I agree, when I saw that 4/10 of the top teams in the NYC market were B1G teams, I thought that Delaney was a genius. This wasn't one of Silver's better pieces, at all. 
"Dolla dolla bills y'all"- Jim Delaney

Bucksfan's picture

Exactly.  Generally Nate Silver is spot on.  I'm a little confused why he doesn't seem to realize that there is a substantial audience already in place in those markets.  Secondly, there is also the notion that "If you build it, they will come."  He doesn't take into account how many people in that area WANT to be college football fans, but just don't have anything of importance to watch (like a Rose Bowl race).
Excluding Rutgers, the Big Ten teams on that list account for 13.6% of the market share.  If you add in Rutgers, that goes up to over 1/3 of the entire market for just 4 teams.  The next closest conference on that list is the ACC (including ND) at ~19%.
Delany saw this as fishing with dynamite.

741's picture

Ask yourself this question: How many hours per year do you actually watch BTN?
I still contend this grab for Maryland (and Rutgers, presumably) is a failure unless we also get ND or Texas.

William's picture

It doesn't matter if you watch it or not. With News Corp's (Fox) purchasing of a 49% share in the Yes Network, with the option to expand it to 80%, News Corp can strong arm New York broadcasters into placing BTN in their basic cable line-up. Plus, it's not football that is the huge money generator for the BTN, but basketball. 

741's picture

It's just that I seem to be hearing conflicting arguments (not necessarily from the same person) that this is about the potential to convert millions of non college football watching people of the great city of New York via the gospel of the BTN; but on the other hand it really doesn't matter if they watch BTN or not because we still expect the collection plate will be filled by the cable TV and satellite providers.

(If people don't care, they won't watch... and if people aren't watching, ad revenues drop. If revenues drop, profits evaporate. If BTN is less profitable, they have less bargaining power with cable and satellite networks.)

I think neither case is solid enough to build this deal upon in the absense of closing the deal with ND (or Texas). If Delaney signs one of those two I will happily admit I am wrong and he is a genius.

William's picture

I don't know if it will necessarily "convert" fans, but Big Ten fans make up a third of the NYC market, a market that doesn't have BTN as part of its standard packages, but will soon. I do agree that the Northeast is an untapped CFB market though. The potential is there for this to be a huge deal. Also one has to take into account the size of New Jersey too, and the growth of the Rutgers football program, which is entirely respectable at this point. 

cplunk's picture

Ad revenues are peanuts. 
All that matters in the cable and satellite environment is subscribers.
It doesnt matter if anybody watches the BTN right now- it just matters that the BTN be leveraged onto their basic cable package.
In 2017 when the BTN renegotiates it's deal it will to some extent matter how many people watch or are perceived to watch; but that's the trick. Delaney is banking that he can make enough of an inroad by 2017 to show an upward trend. Any upward trend is sufficient for him to argue that the size of the market justifies a greater per subscriber rate.

Riggins's picture

William is right.  It doesn't matter if you watch it. You're still paying for it.
And with Fox's recent buy-in to the YES Network (Home of the New York Yankees), you can bet your ass the Big Ten Network is going to be bundled into every basic cable package along with YES so they can watch their beloved Yanks versus Sawks.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I don't know if I'd say "failure," but I do think it's not logical to assume that some guy in Newark who mostly cares about the Yankees and Giants is suddenly going to become a Big Ten partisan because there's now something called the Big Ten Network on his cable lineup.
Most of the really important games played in the Big Ten can already be seen in the Baltimore, Washington, Philly, and New York metro areas on either ABC or one of the ESPNs. None of this will change in 2014. Are people in Houston watching more SEC football this year because Texas A&M is now part of the club? Somehow I doubt it.
Where I agree with Silver's critics here is that Nate seems not to get that there is value to simply having the Big Ten as a presence in these markets.  What I'm not sure anyone can know just yet is whether, because the Big Ten brand reads "Midwest," the people in these eastern markets are going to reject the transplant on an emotional level.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

BuckGnome's picture

No, but since the B1G sells the broadcasting rights of its games to ESPN, it stands to reason the price of those broadcasting rights is going to get significantly bumped when those contracts get renegotiated in a few years.
You add that revenue to $$$ raked in by all those poor sap Yankee fans who are going to be cooerced into paying for the B1G Network on their basic cable packages, it becomes clear that cash is going to be flowing in from all directions into the B1G's coffers.
Yes, with this move, Delaney made it rain.  It doesn't do much for the on-field product tho, and that's what has me concerned.

RedStorm45's picture

So is the general consensus this is potentially huge for $$$ purposes? And is it also a consensus these moves don't really improve the conference athletically?  Shame.

William's picture

Shame? How so?

  1. The Big Ten will make millions off of this deal.
  2. This opens up the NJ/MD area to recruiting for much of the Big Ten.
  3. UMD has a good basketball program with great non-revenue sports.
  4. Rutgers has become a solid program that could beat 3/4s of the Big Ten.

This was a good deal, that could potentially turn out great. 

741's picture

Rutgers has not put up a win over a ranked opponent since they beat the South Florida Bulls (#24) in 2009... I'm not even sure that should count.

William's picture

How many teams in the Big Ten are ranked? 3? Well by adding Rutgers, the Big Ten adds a fourth team. 

741's picture

Kent State is currently ranked too. Are they also a solid program that can beat 3/4 of the B1G?
It's debatable whether Rutgers has become a "solid program" despite their 2012 record of wins and losses. I'd love to see how you quantify your statement that they would beat three quarters of the B1G with some sort of analysis or data.
How many BCS bowl games has Rutgers played in over the existince of the Bowl Championship Series? How many B1G teams have appeared in those games?

RedStorm45's picture

You proved it with your #1.  It's always about the $ and $ first.  That's fine with me, if you strip away the title of "amateur athletics."  For me, conference expansion should help your conf. on the field/court.  This is just adding some mediocre teams (and I'm sorry if Maryland has a great women's track team or something).
UMD basketball has made the NCAA tourney 2 times in the last 5 years (4 seed and 10 seed).  They're not some basketball powerhouse, especially with Williams gone that remains to be seen.
There's also no guarantee Rutgers will continue to thrive with Schiano gone.  They'll also step up (slightly) with big ten opponents as opposed to the big east.

rampageripster's picture

It's always about the $ and $ first.  That's fine with me, if you strip away the title of "amateur athletics.

This statement drives me nuts because it is full of deceptive innacuracies.  Is college sports a business? Yes, but it's not a business like the NFL is a business.  The NFL exists for one reason, to make the owners money.  If the owners weren;t making money, it wouldn't exist.  That is not true for college sports.  The reason so many schools are in financial strain is because EVERY CENT is put back into the program.  It is used to improve facilities, hire better coaches, improve academic services.  Ohio St makes a crap ton with athletics but is not even in the top 25 in profit because they spend it all right back into the program.  Heck, Thompson Library would not have been renevated without football money.
So people, stop painting ADs and Presidents as greedy scrooge mcducks.  They aren't putting the extra $12 million into their pockets.  Sure, they may get a raise (you would too if you managed to bring in that much more annually to your employer), but the vast majority of that cash will go right back into the program to improve the university as a whole.

Cause I couldn't go for three

penult's picture

in my opinion the hagiography of ADs and Presidents is much worse and a bigger mistake.  They make the money on the backs of atheletes,  who do not get guarantees in most cases.  Many have paid dearly with life debilitating injuries and receive no compensation or health care despite getting hurt while making millions for these saintly old men.

741's picture

How about that solid Rutgers program today, eh?
YSU > Pitt > Rutgers > "3/4's of the B1G"

jmacbuckeye's picture

I'm not a fan of the move, if this is all there is. If this is a part of a much larger land grab (preferrably Texas, but even NC/VA/GA will do), which I think it is, then I am for it. But let's assume for a moment that it's not, and this is the end of Delany's expansion efforts, then it is a B1G failure, literrally and figuratively, in my opinion. In that case, the move comes off as reactionary, and not proactive; alluding to a theme I've read multiple times in the past 24 hours that Delany decided to move now because of Notre Dame's recent deal with the ACC. The move also comes off as ill-timed; at any point in the last 3 years he could have taken both Rutgers and Maryland -- he waits until after the exit fees were dramatically increased for both schools. The move also comes off as desperate; it appears as though B1G leadership capitulated on the idea of making moves to improve the quality of our product on the field by landing a goldmine recruiting base that other conferences possess, and so just decided to sell out and make more money. Finally, the move fails to live up to the original goals that Delany set out in 2010 -- that is gaining a southern foothold in fertile recrutiing grounds. These are some of the warranted criticisms, that is, again, assuming this is the end of Delany's mastermind expansion work. At the end of the day, if all we've gained is Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland from this expansion bonanza, Delany failed. He would not have met his original goals, and worse, he made the SEC even stronger. I still maintain there is more that Delany is working on to meet his orginal goals. I hope. Otherwise, his legacy is permanently tarnished.

poop's picture

Not a big fan if this move but it doesn't hurt the BiG any more than it's already hurts itself with, overall, fairly shitty football teams. It isn't going to help improve the quality of the conference though. If this helps us get a Texas or Notre Dame then I'm okay with it but I just don't see this ever happening. I stopped caring about the conference a while ago though, as long as Ohio State dominates then I'm a happy camper.

theDuke's picture

"i'm about to make so much $$$ its gonna make your parents sick."- Kenny Powers Delaney


Poison nuts's picture

It's great that he's making the conference wealthier but I personally want to see the B1G as a more competitive conference that isn't the butt of everyone's jokes. As of right now...the jokes are coming fast & furious. 
Here's to hoping that those next 2 teams are good ones & that this was indeed part one of a 2 part move that unfolds quickly.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.