Conference Realignment: Is There Value With Expansion?

Yesterday there was an interesting tweet from Darren Rovell from CNBC. Rovell cited a Sport Business Journal report that CBS was unwilling to up the current SEC deal due to the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M. CBS is arguing that Missouri and Texas A&M don't add significant value and because of that it doesn't warrant a change.

How is that possible? How could adding a portion of the Texas market as well as St. Louis and at least some of Kansas City not provide value? From a selfish, fully biased, Big 12 perspective I would like to say that it's because they aren't valuable programs and the Big 12 is better off without them. Obviously that's not reality. The reality is pretty far from that, but it does point to the need for big picture thinking when adding new teams and new markets during conference realignment.

For CBS this boils down to first tier rights and the marquee matchups. CBS already airs SEC games in the markets that they've added so adding Missouri and Texas A&M doesn't necessarily equate to an instant addition of some vast new expanse of television sets and more importantly it doesn't add to their current inventory. They will still air the same number of SEC games and they already had a presence in those markets at that. Yes ratings will probably rise as both fanbases shift their attention more toward the SEC and away from the Big 12, but CBS is basically saying that expanding to 12, 14, 16 or whatever the final number may be doesn't change the CBS content model and therefore expansion alone isn't enough to automatically warrant a higher payout for the current deal. It's almost as if they are saying that in a small way there has simply been a watering down effect.

Honestly it's a little bit surprising given what we've been led to believe during all this jockeying for expansion and realignment and it might cause other leagues to take a small step back and really evaluate the true benefit of expansion. If Missouri and Texas A&M aren't necessarily adding significant value, then how could a team like Boise State, Louisville, South Florida, etc. make a strong argument? Or can anyone make a strong argument in instances where you are dealing with a limited inventory? I think there are certainly some teams and programs out there that can still bring value and expand markets, but it seems important to be selective.

Now obviously there is additional benefit for the SEC in adding Missouri and A&M. Both schools and programs are stable institutions that bring a lot of positives to the table. So this isn't to say that the move was a poor decision. The why's surrounding the CBS stance are also an important distinction. Are some SEC institutions are second guessing expansion? Maybe, but most likely they aren't. Really this is just a small but somewhat interesting twist in this whole conference realignment mess.

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