Everyone seems to believe that the current model of CableTV channels paying big bucks to conferences, which depends on the current model of Cable TV surviving, will sustain. What happens with Internet Television, a la carte programming, etc. Will ESPN (as a live programming "channel") even be around in 15 years? (One could ask: Will football even be around, or as popular?). This feels a lot like when the Dodgers and Giants left New York to go to California for Pay Television ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_O'Malley
), among other reasons, in the 1950s (Pay Television wasn't viable until the late 1970s). Having a "channel" in a "market" makes little sense in a world where anyone can watch anything live. Who should be concerned about whether the Big 10 Network will be carried in a particular state or metro area. Anyone will access the programs from anywhere. There needs to be some gatekeeper for funding the coverage, but that can be done without TV networks, and that will change the economics enormously, which makes worrying about these networks at best transient.
I agree there is no stability here. This is what "Gales of Creative Destruction" are all about.
The most stability you could achieve is if the teams in a conference are all roughly equal, so no one is free-riding off the others, and no one is feeling like they are supporting the others. But that assumes that a club of 9, 10, 12, 14, or 16 schools can somehow maintain that level of no cross-subsidies for an extended period. The number of colleges may be roughly fixed (and this of course assumes colleges and universities are stable in a decade or two, and that is doubtful too), the number of permutations and combinations of those colleges is enormous.
Cable is playing the game hard. We all have asked ourselves: if we have 1 wire in our homes for internet, why does it have to be through a traditional cable company? Why dont' the internet only providers create their own resource for internet TV. And the answer always comes back to advertisers. For instance, time shifting doesn't count in the ratings. The record them, and people know who DVRs shows, who watches on Hulu, etc...but they dont' count for the overall ratings. It's a dinosaur industry that needs that big ole' meteor to hit the planet...but internet has not been that force. Look at hulu...they will be switching their model within months where you no longer will get free TV the day after, likely forcing the Hulu Plus model for hulu to continue. Internet provider companies...mostly run by cable companies...have the bandwidth quotas in place in many communities already, some specifically to cut back on people downloading large video files of TV and movies via torrents, etc.
I cut the cord years ago...have been a hulu and other means viewer of TV for 4 years now and haven't missed a beat. In many cases you can get the east coast feed of a show with the commercials edited out just 10 minutes after airing. So if you're on the west coast, you get to view something 2 and 1/2 hours before the west coasters with no commercials.
But sports are the last hope, and a powerful one, for the networks and cable companies.
Because they are live...very few want to watch a day old game.
I use MLB.tv, huge fan, get to watch Yankees games on YES anywhere in the world. Other leagues have similar options.And ESPN had ESPN3. For eSPN3, you still need to be a cable subscriber...there is no way to pay for ESPN3 without it to use only on a computer/internet TV/xbox, etc. Because their revenue is tied to subscriber rates they get from cable companies. Cable drives ESPNs business with other internet companies paying for the rights to provide ESPN3, hence driving up those internet service fees in the same model.
But the ideal situation would be for all the leagues to get together to create a sports TV app. Many would pay $150 a month for access to all MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA BB, NCAA FB games that are on TV. Instead, it's all done in weird packages, or ala carte plus the mandatory minimum package. So to get all sports games...the main driver of live TV for many, you need to spend a ton of money. So people don't. They pick and chose what sports. For me, it was the MLB package on DirectTV, and now via MLB.tv. I borrow a friends internet login for a ESPN friendly internet provider for ESPN3 for most college games. But CBS games, NBC, etc...I have to watch some crap stream via the old channelsurfing using some justin.tv feed. No fun.
As for football not being popular one day...I doubt it. Of the top 50 valued sports franchises in the WORLD, all NFL teams are on the list, even Jacksonville. Only a few MLB and NBA franchises, a few soccer (ManU #1 in world).