If you’ve been online in the last few week, you know that Amazon Prime day was a thing that just happened, leading to many articles so conveniently timed exploring CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in modern history.
More relevantly to sports fans is the fact the Amazon, plus Netflix, Google and Facebook (forming FANG, as they’re regularly referred to) have spent billions on content in the past year alone, with goals to triple their individual spending within the next five years. Tech companies like Amazon have become the new moneymakers in a digital world, and expecting them to be content with what they have runs counter to the entire history of American capitalism.
So what happens when these companies turn these considerable resources towards collegiate sports? A couple months back, Brian Bishop had an interesting take, with the theory that these companies will circumvent conferences all together to working directly with schools. The main point? These companies won't settle like television companies have for the dregs of a conference in a catch-all contract. Rather, they’d opt for going directly to the “big” schools with the promise of ensuring that they get proportional share of the pie they bring to the table, instead of the standard revenue sharing model conferences employ.
Now, do I think this will happen? Probably not in the way Bishop explains. Conferences are locked into some pretty comprehensive deals with non-compete renewals, especially with ESPN, negotiated by some of their best and brightest execs (one of whom is now the AD at Syracuse, in John Wildhack). More importantly, any school-specific deal would almost certainly have to provide the school with financial coverage of any conference penalty or exit fee, which suddenly adds many more millions just to create an environment other companies will then take advantage of free. No one wants to be the first through that wall.
But. What happens if Amazon decides $500 million for Michigan and Alabama football streaming is a prudent investment, and schools are left to fend for themselves? Bishop speculates that schools with the largest alumni bases and football followings would be secure. The Syracuse Orange aren’t exactly either.
HOWEVER, Syracuse does bring an interesting profile to the table. We’ve talked about why expanding the reach of conference TV deals is good for the ACC, but it’s also good for Syracuse, with an ever expanding Orange Alumni Base. While these tech companies don’t care as much about traditional TV market ratings, ‘Cuse gives them a strong core of viewers in three of the top five metro areas of NYC, LA, and Atlanta.
Perhaps most importantly: any deal with Syracuse would lead to an ability for ‘Cuse to create their own content. Every “big” school has some kind of journalism program and digital content team, but not many can offer a state of the art television studio right on campus. We’ve touched on this about 1,000 times, but ANY evolution of the sports broadcasting landscape that is “successful” will include unique, high quality non-traditional talking head content. Unlike most other schools, Syracuse will be able to give students and Athletics coaches and their staff an opportunity to produce this kind of content.
Again, this is a massive hypothetical, but I think Syracuse are in a position to survive without being the traditional football power so many media types desire. The upside of basketball plus the resources available would vault Syracuse into consideration. Would you watch ‘Cuse on Amazon Prime or Netflix? What content outside of sports would you want to see?