Remember when AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco was selling his snake oil about ESPN being ready to promote the new conference and all its games?
Well, the Four Letter Word is so enthused to be partnered with The American that they sold off a certain number of games per-year to CBS Sports Network this month. According to information released last week, CBS Sports Network will air 25 college basketball games starting this year, a number that will rise to 30 a year beginning in 2014. The network will also air 13 football games starting in 2014.
The fact that ESPN felt comfortable enough to make a deal like this tells you everything you need to know about the perception of The American and the viability of CBS Sports Network. Remember, this is a 24-hour sports entity which, by definition, is a competitor of ESPN's. Look, I'm not an expert when it comes to television contract particulars, so perhaps ESPN has a number of deals like this out there, but I highly doubt they a.) exist with any network the Four Letter Word actually considers to be a threat (see Fox Sports 1) and b.) involves any “product” they deem to be very valuable.
Now, I guess you can look at this one of two ways.
The first, most optimistic way of looking at this is to say 'hey, it's CBS, a major network, and its more exposure.' Plus, with the AAC as a part of its lineup of sports now (a lineup that's limited), maybe CBS will spend some time marketing the conference rather than relegating it to second-class citizen status, the way ESPN is sure to do.
The second, more pessimistic take is that CBS Sports Network is a joke right now. From what I can gather, they are in about 50 million homes at the moment, as compared to 100 million for ESPN and ESPN 2 and 80 million for NBC Sports (no idea about Fox Sports 1, but I'm sure it's up there). Plus, CBS Sports Network ratings are so abysmal that Nielsen evidently doesn't even rank them. So, it begs the question....if a touchdown is scored in The American and no one is there to see it on CBS Sports Network, did it really happen?
I freely admit there is a lot about this I don't know. Does this mean more money for conference members? I don't believe so since I think it's just a licensing agreement between the two networks and doesn't affect the revenue side of things. Also, I don't know if this means any possible cross over onto CBS. Again, I highly doubt it as no mention has been made of that in any of the articles I've read and CBS already has a deal to telecast AAC basketball games. I doubt American football games are showing up on the main weekend lineup.
In the end, there was never any really good outcome for this new conference when it came to television exposure, but there's a part of me that wishes NBC Sports Network had ultimately landed the rights to The American. I know they aren't nearly as powerful at ESPN but I get the sense that they would have invested in helping market the conference. The Four Letter Word, which by all accounts played a big and devious part in breaking up the old Big East, seems to have bought The American simply because it was there, with little thought to actually helping promote the success of the conference. Now, trading off games like parts from a used car lets everyone know exactly where the conference ranks in the pecking order.
I guess it's to be expected. It just sucks...is all.