The schedule for this season’s college football bowls has been released. It underscores ESPN’s dominance over college football as well as why that dominance is bad both for college football competition and the consumer.
ESPN controls the rights for 33 out of the 35 bowl games. And if you think the Sun Bowl (CBS) and the Cotton Bowl (Fox) are going to get the coverage they deserve on SportsCenter, you haven’t been paying attention. I guess now that ESPN controls all of the BCS games we do not have to endure the spectacle of ESPN acting as if the Rose Bowl (the game ESPN/ABC has controlled for some time) is the only non-title BCS game that matters – so that’s something.
You know how many games will be on New Year’s Day in 2012? Zero. Why? Because New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, and heaven forbid that any college game should be played on an NFL holy day. For many people, they will have a day off of work on January 2nd, so ESPN has decided that the New Year’s Day Bowls this year will fall on that day. But unlike the way New Year’s Bowl games were situated up until the last two decades, there will be no wall-to-wall college football all day long. There will be four games that start in the early afternoon, then just the Rose Bowl in the late afternoon – and you will watch the ESPN/ABC family of networks, or you just won’t watch college football at all. If you live on the West Coast, the football will be over before supper-time (special kudos for ESPN starting even its west coast mid-week games in the afternoon local time).
As for the conferences represented, January 2nd will be a feast…if you really, really like the Big 10 and the SEC.
Four Five Big 10 teams and three SEC teams will be represented on college football’s (used-to-be) big day. The Pac-10 (maybe) will have one team, as will Conference USA. The ACC, the Big East, the Big 12, and others will be completely shut out (barring an unusual set-up in the Rose Bowl). If you’re an ACC fan or a Big 12 fan, ESPN wants you to know: get home early on Wednesday, December 28th to catch your team!
I had high hopes that Comcast’s purchase of NBC would lead to a true competitor for ESPN in the sports arena. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely to happen for many years to come. Oh, and the next time you complain about the size of your cable bill, remember that ESPN has by far the highest fee of any basic cable channel per subscriber. If you want college football, you have no choice but to turn to ESPN and its family of networks – and they sure do make you pay for it.