Thursday, December 18, 2008
West Coast Conference Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich announced a groundbreaking partnership with ESPN to broadcast a 23 game men's basketball package in Australia and New Zealand. For a conference that is fast establishing itself as a significant player in the men's basketball landscape on the heels of their recent NCAA success and new conference leadership, this is a visionary deal on many fronts. It leverages the WCC's conference geography with other strengths including current and future recruiting bases and Olympic exposure from St. Mary's College basketball star Patty Mills. Most important, previously untapped media markets that will be an area of growth for college sports, with significant early entry benefits for the WCC and its member schools, have just been established.
Many NCAA Division I conferences could benefit from pursing similar arrangements. Other west coast leagues such as the Pac-10 might also look to the Pacific Rim, the Big Ten and Big East can head north to Canada, (indeed the Mid American Conference has already established ties with Toronto and the International Bowl )and the Big XII, SEC and ACC have significant opportunities to look to the south in the Caribbean and Mexico as likely areas of growth. Further, with the explosion of easily accessible and ever improving Web capabilities for broadcasting, this partnership takes on added importance as the media landscape shifts. Even individual intuitions, in the west and especially in Hawaii could consider these fertile markets for exposing their brands with residual recruiting benefits.
While time will tell if this becomes a trend, this arrangement represents a significant opportunity for the non-BCS conferences to out maneuver some of the bigger conferences who are likely more focused on establishing their own cable channels and other domestic arrangements. While these are more readily understood and immediately beneficial legacy methods of distribution, the international area may be poised for the greatest growth of all as our world gets smaller and smaller through technology and internationalization with benefits to the most nimble and creative who understand our quickly changing world.