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Assessing the state of college football

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As the college football season comes to an end with the National Championship (BCS) game being played in Pasadena, California, perhaps it is time to assess the recent season. It seems that consumers cannot get enough of college football and attendance and television ratings seem to confirm that fact. However, there are some signs that there may be room for improvement.

For example, the Southeastern Conference has launched the SEC Network has partnered with ESPN to create a new network that will feature the fourteen teams in the SEC. ESPN will actually own the network but the SEC Conference owns all the content. Profits will be split 50/50. CBS will still carry SEC games but the distribution of the games is going to be determined by various cable outlets. What cable outlet in the 11 state southeastern footprint will elect NOT to carry the SEC games? The answer is none.

Bottom line for the new network is money. It’s always about the money when sports and television are involved. Currently ESPN is paying each SEC team about $12 million per year. With the projected growth and expansion to additional cable outlets, the payout per team could go as high as $60 million. So the formation of the SEC Network is a big deal. Stay tuned.

Attendance at college football games in 2013 is up approximately one percent (1%) according to a recent report. This reverses a trend that has spanned the last five years where attendance for FBS teams was down by varying degrees.

Television viewership is stable and Alabama and Texas A & M continue to be the two highest rated teams for television viewership. Michigan, Ohio State and Auburn round out the top five teams in viewership.

However, in spite of some of the good news there are some troubling signs. Sports Business Journal recently published the results of a study performed by Ohio University and Turnkey Sports and Entertainment. Results showed that there is some dissatisfaction among patrons who attend college games. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest score, fans rated the college football game day experience at 7.1. Three important factors contributed to the lukewarm scores: price, heightened consumer demand versus advances in the HD television experience and increased competition from other sports experiences such as the NFL, the NBA and others.

College football will always have the built in battle between “in person” attendance on game day versus the “stay at home (or go to a bar) and watch on television” experience. Colleges and universities need to focus on fundamentals in order to enhance the fan experience. With plenty of season ticket holders, big corporate sponsors and revenue from television it is easy to overlook the average fan that comes to the stadium for a total experience in addition to watching their team.

By any measure college football continues to enjoy unparalleled success. No matter who wins the National Championship in 2014, fans will be waiting eagerly for the start of the 2014 season in August.

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