Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spending Billions, @ESPN Rules College Football Schedule

A big report at the New York Times, "College Football’s Most Dominant Player? It’s ESPN":
The nation’s annual rite of mayhem and pageantry known as the college football season begins this week, and Saturday will feature back-to-back-to-back marquee matchups.

At the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, last year’s national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, will battle the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.

Earlier in the day in Houston, Oklahoma State will play Mississippi State in the Texas Kickoff Classic. And that night in Arlington, Tex., Louisiana State and Texas Christian will face off in the Cowboys Classic.

The games will not just be televised by ESPN. They are creations of ESPN — demonstrations of the sports network’s power over college football.

The teams were not even on each other’s schedules until ESPN, looking to orchestrate early-season excitement and ratings, went to work. The 2013 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic came together more than two years ago when one of the network’s programming czars noticed that Alabama was not scheduled to play this Labor Day weekend, brought the Tide on board and found a worthy opponent.

Far beyond televising games, ESPN has become the chief impresario of college football. By infusing the sport with billions of dollars it pays for television rights — more than $10 billion on college football in the last five years alone — ESPN has become both puppet-master and kingmaker, arranging games, setting schedules and bestowing the gift of nationwide exposure on its chosen universities, players and coaches.
A great piece.

Continue reading.

And it's a three-part series, so I'll probably update on Part II tomorrow, and so forth...

Added: The piece mentions ESPN's conflicts of interest, including backing out on a PBS documentary on concussions in the NFL. See LAT, "ESPN bows out of concussion project; NFL denies exerting pressure." And NYT, "N.F.L. Pressure Said to Lead ESPN to Quit Film Project."