CBS Move of 'Bama-LSU to Prime time Sign of Things to Come?

CBS has just announced that the Alabama-LSU game is set for a 7:oo P.M. CST kickoff from Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

For the casual fan who just flips on the television and watches the game that's on with no attention paid to what channel or who is playing, this is not a big deal.  For those -- like me -- who know the time and channel of every game Alabama (insert your team here) has ever played, the axis of the world has tilted ever so slightly.

[caption id="attachment_201" align="alignright" width="155" caption="This is the same network that gave us Designing Women"][/caption]

This move by CBS is monumental, for one, because they are contractually held to the 2:30 P.M. CST kickoff time for the entire season.  However, CBS is given one weekend -- usually the first Saturday in October -- where they are allowed a doubleheader that includes the normal 2:30 P.M. time slot in addition to a prime time 7:00 P.M. game.

This season's primetime game was the Alabama-Florida game from Bryant-Denny Stadium. In previous seasons, CBS chose LSU-Florida and Tennessee-Florida as prime time showcase games.

CBS is also allowed a second doubleheader Saturday where they have an early 11:00 A.M. CST kickoff followed by the 2:30 P.M. staple.  This doubleheader date has mostly been saved for mid-November.  They waited until November 29 in 2008 and televised the Georgia-Georgia Tech at 11:00 as a lead-in to the Iron Bowl at 2:30.

There is also a 1:30 P.M. CST game on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  From 1996 until 2008, the LSU-Arkansas game was written in stone for this time slot.  It appeared to be a made-for-TV ploy to develop the non-existent rivalry of LSU-Arkansas.  It's never really developed into a rivalry, but the games have always been very entertaining.

In 2009 and 2010, CBS decided to air the Iron Bowl in that Friday time slot to mixed reviews.  Arkansas-LSU will move back in to the 1:30 Friday game and the Iron Bowl will go back to being played on Saturdays in 2011.

[caption id="attachment_202" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="This is not Versus. "][/caption]

The ESPN family of networks currently get to pick from all SEC games after CBS makes it's initial selection.  CBS gets one game per week -- the featured game -- as well as the SEC Championship Game.  ESPN airs the SEC Network game at 11:21 A.M. CST -- formerly know as the Jefferson Pilot game -- and will usually televise the remaining games across the family of networks during prime time with kickoff times ranging anywhere between 5:00 P.M. CST to 6:45 P.M.

It is currently unknown how big of a carrot CBS waved in the face of ESPN to air the November 5 showdown between No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama in prime time, but we can all be certain that ESPN didn't do it as a favor.

This move by CBS may just be the first in a line of moves to posture for more exposure in offseason television contract renegotiations that will more than likely take place over the spring and summer with the additions of Texas A&M and possibly Missouri to the SEC for the 2012 season.

CBS and ESPN will more than likely be required to cough up more money to televise SEC programming, especially with the Dallas and St. Louis television markets being factored in with the addition of A&M and Missouri.  Dallas currently has the 5th largest television market in the nation and St. Louis the 21st according to Neilsen.

Although Missouri brings little to the conference, they do boast a great journalism program, yet another tiger mascot, and bragging rights of being the university that Brad Pitt got his learnin'.

The Georgia Bulldogs -- Atlanta -- brings the No. 8 rated television market according to Nielsen.  That gives the SEC three of the top 25 television markets in the nation.

The current television deal began in 2009.  The SEC has a 15-year, $825 million deal with CBS that works alongside the 15-year, $2.25 billion contract with ESPN.

CBS pays $4.58 million per year, per team to the SEC while ESPN is paying a whopping $12.5 million per team, per year.  Assuming the SEC uses simple math in the renegotiations, it's not out of the question that CBS would at least be asked to pay an additional $9.16 million per year and ESPN $25 million more annually.

I wouldn't be surprised if CBS decided to offer a few more million or to pay a portion of ESPN's additional fee in order to strike while the SEC branding iron is hot.  The 2:30 P.M. game is the featured game most weeks, but CBS only has about four hours of college football coverage while ESPN starts as early as 8:00 A.M. CST and continues until early Sunday morning.

Why would CBS not want to spend a little extra money and get an opportunity spend an additional three or four hours to promote all the weekly prime time programming during a 7:00 P.M. CST game? ABC gets at least two games per Saturday.  ESPN gets every other game out there.  Why would CBS not try to add one more game and get into the trendy prime time broadcast game?

CBS is available in more homes than ESPN and having a weekly doubleheader would only help the SEC ensure its product is available in as many homes as possible.

I would expect CBS to get the number one selection for its prime time game and then get the third or fourth game for its 2:30 P.M. game, but that is speculation that is too complicated to ever understand 100 percent.

One thing that is fun to speculate about is what CBS offered ESPN to air the Alabama-LSU in prime time.  In this article by Michael Hiestand at USA Today, it appears that ESPN will get programming consideration from CBS in 2012.  If that is the case, what is that programming consideration?

Maybe ESPN is given an opportunity to air the SEC Championship Game in 2012 in exchange for CBS to air the de facto national championship game on November 5th, 2011.

Maybe not.

Whatever happens, the most important thing is whether or not Alabama wins on November 5th.

If Alabama loses to LSU, then LSU will more than likely play the sixth best team in the conference for the SEC Championship in Atlanta on December 3rd.  While an inferior SEC East team is getting pummeled by the Bengal Tigers, 'Bama fans will be spend the day tuned in to their championship game -- Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma.

If Oklahoma defeats an undefeated Oklahoma State team, expect Bedlam in Tuscaloosa because 'Bama will be playing LSU again in New Orleans.

Wonder what CBS would offer to televise the rematch?  The Masters, the Final Four, and four episodes of Mike & Molly could get the deal done.

ESPN... you are on the clock.

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