One of the truly fascinating battles of sports in the media age is unfolding
before our eyes, as the NCAA has decided to explore the options and is talking
to other people besides CBS about the NCAA tournament rights.Se
Disney is very serious about this and is suggesting they could broadcast four
games simultaneously, on ABC, ESPN, espn2, and ESPN Classic. They could also
dump some stuff over on the Disney Channel and make it open access for a period,
which they do on a regular basis, so that's five.
Fox and ILS are also bidding. ILS, if we remember, is a European broadcasting
power and they are no joke.
We would have said CBS is dead, but they just this week made that huge deal
with Viacom this week, making them one of the largest media companies around.
USA Today cites a source as saying that "there is more to this than
money," and apparently that something is the net.Â Needless to say, by
2004, the entire internet structure will be quite different, and who knows what
that will mean.Â But it's clear that a) there is huge money involved,
several billion, b) the rights will be trans-media, and c) it's going to come
down to a few big players - CBS/Viacom, Disney, ILS, and Fox on the outside.
The NCAA would also like the winner to commit to broadcasting every NCAA
championship, which means 3:00 am archery.
The advertising battle will also be striking.Â A better question,
though, is what will the NCAA do with all that money?Â With Isiah Thomas
buying the CBA and hoping to turn into a minor league, and the nascent
Collegiate Professional League, or whatever it's called, the NCAA will be under
enormous pressure to keep athletes on the stage, recognizable, and
marketable.Â Clearly with that kind of money around, they'll have to do
some things differently. This is going to be interesting.