The biggest college football TV contract news was…The HBCU Pigskin Showdown signing a TV deal with CNBC. I am only joking as the Big Ten’s deal with Fox, CBS, and NBC made the biggest splash this week. However, one cannot deny the NBC family of networks’ addition of a college football all-star game is a big step to entering a mostly monopolized industry, college football’s bowl season.
CNBC is televising this game in the heart of bowl season on Saturday, December 17th at 1 PM ET/12 CT. While this is a bold move, it is not too out of the ordinary as the Blue-Gray Classic used to be televised on CBS and ABC on Christmas Day before the completion of bowl season, which you can read more about here.
ESPN televises all but two Division I bowl games. In fact, the network itself owns 17 of the 44 bowl games in Division I. This is a far cry from 2005 when FOX, NBC, and CBS all televised bowl games. It is not a stretch to say that ESPN runs the postseason.
However, things may change as the network may have little incentive to broadcast some bowls of a conference they have no rights to during the regular season. Moving some of these bowls off ESPN may even be a spiteful move, considering the nearly 40-year relationship ESPN had with the Big Ten.
Many Big Ten bowls can benefit from a Saturday afternoon or night slot on NBC, especially the conference’s lower-tier bowls like the Quick Lane Bowl and Guaranteed Rate Bowl. These two bowls have the last picks among bowl-eligible Big Ten teams and are not broadcasted in optimal TV slots, with the Quick Lane Bowl played on a Monday afternoon in its previous two editions and the Guaranteed Rate Bowl locked into an “after dark” TV time.
A Saturday afternoon or even night slot leading into SNL would be a huge exposure boost for these bowls and would help NBC further cope with the loss of NHL rights, a move that emptied their Winter sports inventory completely.
While the HBCU Pigskin Showdown’s announcement may not have sent shockwaves across the college football universe, it is a sign that NBC wants to get involved with college football’s postseason and is very much in a position to do so.