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Behind the Broadcast: ESPN matches NBC’s offer, keeps rights to Big East sports

Saturday, March 2, 2013
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ESPN decided that having a watered-down Big East Conference on its network was better than seeing it on a rival channel.

Last Saturday, ESPN decided to match the deal that the Big East Conference made with NBC Sports Group.

NBC Sports Group offered $130 million to lure the Big East away from ESPN. It would have the rights to the conference’s basketball and football games. Some of the football games were going to air on NBC Sports.

But ESPN’s current deal gave it the right to match any offer from a rival network, and it had a week to do so.

“ESPN has matched the third-party offer that the Big East Conference received,” Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “Subject to Big East board approval, ESPN and the Big East will continue, for years to come, their long-term relationship, which began in 1980.”

There are two interesting aspect of the deal, which runs through 2019-20.

First, what will the Big East look like? The conference as we know it will fade away with the departures of schools such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame. There are numerous reports that the conference’s seven Catholic schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Villanova — will form a conference that retain will the Big East name. The league reportedly will add Butler and Xavier.

Second, keeping the Big East away from NBC Sports Group shows that ESPN is determined to keep its dominance of televising college athletics, even if it has to make a deal with a rival. ESPN is planning to sublet games to FOX Sports when it starts its new sports cable channel later this year.

NBC Sports Group does have some college basketball on NBCSN (Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League), but having the Big East, even a shadow of its former self, would have been a coup for the channel.

But don’t feel too bad for NBCSN. It still has the NHL package and college hockey games. Honestly, I’d rather have that, build that brand and reap the benefits.

Danica effect

Thanks to Danica Patrick, the Daytona 500’s television ratings were much higher than last year’s.

Last Sunday’s race earned a 9.9 rating and 22 share for FOX Sports, the network said Tuesday. That’s up 24 percent from 2012, when rain pushed the event to a Monday night. It was the highest rating since 2008.

Hoops extra

There are plenty of college basketball games on TV today. Most of the games that are on TV are listed on the Scoreboard page.

However, because of space constraints, not all the games being televised could be listed. Here are other games that will be on TV and the Internet today.

ESPNU and ESPNU HD — Jacksonville State at Belmont, 1 p.m.; Valparaiso at Green Bay, 3 p.m.; Colorado at California, 5 p.m.; South Carolina at Texas A&M, 7 p.m; Rutgers at Georgetown, 9 p.m.; BYU at Loyola Marymount, 11 p.m.

ESPN3 — Iowa State at Okla­homa, 1:30 p.m.; TCU at Texas Tech, 4 p.m.; UNC Asheville at Winthrop, 4 p.m.; New Mexico State at Denver, 6 p.m.; Clemson at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m.; CIAA Tournament championship game, 8 p.m.

CBS Sports Network and CBSSN HD — Army at Lehigh, noon; UMass at Xavier, 2 p.m.; Simon Fraser at Western Washington, 4 p.m.

Big Ten Network and BTN HD — Penn State at Minnesota, 3 p.m.; Nebraska at Illinois, 5:15 p.m.; Iowa at Indiana, 7:30 p.m.

Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 HD — Stanford at Washington State (women), 3 p.m.

Ten NHL games

It’s a big NHL weekend with 10 games on TV.

NHL Network and NHL HD have a quadruple-header today. It starts at noon with the Ottawa Senators at the Philadelphia Flyers, followed by the Washington Cap­itals at the Winnipeg Jets at 3, the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Montreal Canadiens at 7. and the Los Angeles Kings at the Van­couver Canucks at 10.

MSG and MSG HD will have the Buffalo Sabres at the New Jersey Devils at 3 p.m. today.

On Sunday, NBC13 (WNYT) and NBC13 HD televise the Detroit Red Wings at the Chicago Blackhawks at 12:30 p.m. There are a pair of games at 3 — the Ottawa Senators at the New York Islanders on MSG Plus and MSG Plus HD, and the St. Louis Blues at the Dallas Stars on NHL Network and NHL HD.

Finally, there are two games at 7:30 — the New York Rangers hosting the Sabres on MSG and MSG HD, and the Canadiens visiting the Boston Bruins on NBCSN and NBCSN HD.

Parting shots

Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 50 (standard definition) and TWCS-1803 HD has the Clarkson-Union ECAC Hockey game tonight at 7 from Messa Rink. . . .

The Louisville-Syracuse men’s college basketball game is on CBS6 (WRGB) and CBS6 HD at noon today. It will also be on the radio on WGY-AM (810) and WGY-FM (103.1). . . .

ABC10 (WTEN) and ABC10 HD will have an NBA double-header Sunday. At 1 p.m., it’s the Miami Heat at the New York Knicks. At 3:30 p.m., the Los Angeles Clippers host the Oklahoma City Thunder. . . .

Major League Soccer kicks off its regular season at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN and NBCSN HD with Houston hosting D.C. United. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD has New York at Portland at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

 
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