NBC has owned the exclusive rights to Notre Dame home games since 1991, but that could soon come to an end. The newest contract between the National Broadcasting Company and Notre Dame football will have run its course at the end of 2015. Of course the network will most likely want to keep the exclusive rights, but does it make sense for the Irish and NBC to continue the long-standing relationship?
As of now Notre Dame receives approximately $15 million a year from the network, which is a bargain for NBC. Other than its Sunday Night Football coverage of the NFL, and its NHL coverage, the once powerful network has struggled to stay relevant in the billion dollar sports broadcasting industry. The networks recently rebranded 24 hour dedicated sports channel, NBC Sports, is struggling to gain viewership and ratings, and other than its NHL coverage, the channel doesn’t currently provide a lot of reasons for mainstream sports fans to tune in.
After paying a reported $250 million to acquire the rights to the Barclays English Premier League, the network will start to broadcast its soccer matches this Fall on their primary channel, its 24 hour dedicated sports network, and will even stream games online for fans to watch. NBC also still owns the exclusive rights to the “Triple Crown” of Horse racing, but it is hardly considered a consistent revenue generator for the network. While other networks have paid up to $200 million for the rights to broadcast certain conferences, those deals includes both home and away games, and men’s and women’s basketball also. Now is the time for NBC to decide if the price they pay is worth the return of investment they receive, as under their current deal, they only have access to all home football games, and a handful
of Irish hockey games.
There have been rumors and speculation that the Fighting Irish may forgo a contract extension with NBC and choose the path recently traveled by the Texas Longhorns, and start their own network. While the Longhorn Network still struggles for ratings and is trying to find its way into homes other than just in Texas, it still provides an extra $8 million for the university and its athletic programs per year. One would have to assume that if Notre Dame decided to
take the same route, it would have the potential to double, if not triple that, as the Irish are a very strong national product, and enjoy an even stronger following. As much as we would love to see a channel that is dedicated solely to Irish athletics, it is a risky proposition, and we are not sure if the powers that be are ready to fully embrace that type of endeavor.
While the Irish will officially join the ACC on July 1st, it obviously will not be in football. ESPN has just signed a deal with Atlantic Coast Conference, that will disperse approximately $17 million per year to each and every football member, no matter how awful they are. The Irish will not see a penny from this contract, but in turn will retain 100% ownership of its football generated revenue. So this leaves the door open for NBC to continue its Irish coverage, but it would seem that they will have to match, if not exceed the deal that ESPN has worked out with the current stable of ACC football programs.
There is chance that if each party decided to go their own way, they could find a deal that would stand to be more a profitable one, than the current relationship offers. The question is does either party want to take that chance, and risk severing ties that may not be able to mended. Keep in mind that NBC just acquired rights to a sport that averages only 136,000 viewers here in the US, while the last regular- season game the Irish played on national television drew over 14 million viewers.
The Irish couldn’t have picked a better time to climb its way back to the upper echelon of college football, because if we are being honest here, a strong Irish football program is a hot commodity on a national level, and NBC knows this.
If Notre Dame can come close to duplicating their prior season on the field, they would place themselves in a position of power and leverage for the upcoming renegotiations.
At this point it seems to make sense that the Irish and NBC continue on, and while the specifics of any new contract may be a bit different, it should continue to be a profitable venture for both sides. The Irish will most definitely ask for a minimum of $17.1 million during the exchange of wants and needs, if not more, and if NBC is smart they will concede on most, if not all of Notre Dame’s demands. The relationship has been an amicable one for over twenty years, and we see no reason as to why that wouldn’t continue. If the Irish continue to have a strong showing on the field, it provides NBC with ratings, profit, and a strong footprint in the ever popular world of college football.