Crimson Media Watch: All Hail ESPN edition

THE COUGS DID more than kick off the bowl season at the New Mexico Bowl last month, they kicked off the ESPN bowl season. ESPN owns the New Mexico Bowl -- not just the television rights, they own the bowl itself. Additionally, they own eight other of the college football bowl games. And this coming year, they'll reportedly own and operate 12 of the 39 bowl games.

And for those bowls they don't own, ESPN is still where you'll tune to find the game. All but two -- yes, two -- of the 35 bowl games this season were broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. Only the Sun (CBS) and Cotton (Fox) were not shown on ESPN channels.

Grumbling about ESPN having too much power and influence in college football, and the bowls themselves, has been around a long time but it's amounted to little more than that - grumbling. Take for example the recent New Mexico Bowl.

ESPN rebroadcasts many of their games including bowl telecasts. I recorded a subsequent NMB viewing since the live ESPN broadcast was initially joined in progress. In the re-airings, the incident with the CSU coach shouting slurs and obscenities at Connor Halliday was edited out by ESPN -- a rough-cut that came off as jarring. Not one media outlet, as far as I can tell, ever questioned ESPN's decision to edit for content, rather than time concerns, on a bowl game they just happen to own.

The ESPN-owned bowls generally draw some of the lower ratings and the payouts are less. "Still, they provide hours of low-cost live programming and help ESPN reward its partner conferences and teams," said the NY Times in an article last year.

ESPN owns and operates the BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.), Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth), Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise), Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas), Las Vegas Bowl, Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque), Texas Bowl (Houston) and Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu).

Plans for this coming year include four new bowls, raising the number of bowls to 39 . They are: The Miami Bowl, Boca Raton Bowl, Bahamas Bowl and Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.) Apart from the Miami Bowl, owned by the ACC, the other three bowl games will be owned by ESPN.

THE PAC-12 will be an interested observer in the coming SEC Network, which ESPN owns. They reportedly plan to charge $1.30/month per subscriber, according to the Sports Business Journal. The Pac-12 has never officially revealed what they charge for the Pac-12 Networks but it has been estimated to be $0.80/per. The Big Ten Network reportedly charges roughly the same as the Pac-12 Network, though they charge "up to" $1 within their conference borders.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable are said to be balking at the SEC/ESPN asking price. No word yet on whether DirecTV, which has yet to come to terms with the Pac-12, is planning to carry the SEC Network. Note: Dish, however, is said to be close to an SEC Network agreement that would be part of a larger overall deal with ESPN. Perhaps ESPNU might actually be broadcast in HD on Dish sometime in August? One can only dream.

For reference, The Weather Channel receives about $0.13 per subscriber per month, while Fox Sports 1 receives $0.23 according to SNL Kagan. ESPN, meanwhile, is the clear leader in carriage fees, generating about $5.50 per subscriber. (Fox Sports 1 began negotiations asking for $0.80 before coming to an agreement on the lower fee.)

Selected 2013-14 bowl game ratings:
Jan. 1: Heart of Dallas Bowl, North Texas 36, UNLV 14 -- 0.2 rating.
Dec. 31: AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Arizona 42, Boston College 19 -- 1.4 rating
Dec. 24: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Oregon State 38, Boise State 23 -- 1.7 rating
Dec. 21: Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Colorado State 48, Washington State 45 -- 1.8 rating
Dec. 21: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, USC 45, Fresno State 20 -- 2.2 rating.
Jan. 1: Outback Bowl, LSU 21, Iowa 14 -- 3.2 rating.
Dec. 30: Valero Alamo Bowl, Oregon 30, Texas 7 -- 4.6 rating.
Dec. 31: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Texas A&M 52, Duke 48 -- 5.0 rating.
Jan. 1: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Central Florida 52, Baylor 42 -- 6.6 rating.
Jan. 3: Discover Orange Bowl, Clemson 40, Ohio State 35 -- 6.7 rating.
Jan. 2: Allstate Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31 -- 9.3 rating.
Jan. 1: Rose Bowl, Michigan State 24, Stanford 20 -- 10.2 rating.
Jan. 6: BCS Championship Game, Florida State 34, Auburn 31 --15.7 rating.

THE COUGS WENT from six regular season games broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks in 2012 to four games in 2013. Fox Sports 1 broadcast three games, ESPN aired two, ESPNU broadcast two and Fox broadcast one.

For 2014, the TV assignments and times won't be scheduled until further down the road but Cougar (and Pac-12 fans) should get used to Thursday and Friday night games.

The Pac-12's TV package requires each Pac-12 member to host a Thursday or Friday night game twice every three years. WSU hosted ASU in 2013 on a Thursday and the Cougs will host Rutgers on a Thursday in 2014. But don't forget about the road games. WSU also played at UW this past season on a Friday and will play at Stanford in 2014 on a Friday.

For the 2014 schedule, CLICK HERE

IF THERE IS one good thing about the college football season coming to an end, it's that fans no longer have to be subjected to the interminable drone of color men Jessie Palmer and Rod Gilmore for a while.

Palmer spent each broadcast making about 25 wide-ranging conclusions based on the play that just happened. Naturally, such a tactic guaranteed that over the space of three hours and 150 plays or so, Palmer would contradict himself at least a dozen times. Since Palmer also apparently thinks he gets paid by the word, it was a lethal combination in 2013-14.

Gilmore continued to beat the viewership senseless with the same (often dubious) points, over and over again. But he made up for it by offering little to no insight, instead choosing to narrate replays with a simple repeat of what everyone had already just seen. Well, it's just a college football game. And there are worse things than listening to Gilmore or Palmer on the call. I can't think of any right now, but I'm sure they exist.

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