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(No) Pay TV

Harry Minium's Virginian-Pilot story says Conference USA's television revenues take a pay cut in the next set of television deals. Look at the conference lineup and this isn't shocking. Now Conference USA finds itself negotiating a TV deal for what's, essentially, Sun Belt Premium in an era of shrinking traditional TV viewership.

Early in each CUSA media guide, you find a listing of the metropolitan areas graced by Conference USA's membership and where each ranks as a TV market. The current roster compares well enough with the TV market roster before the Realignment DJ screamed, "SWIIIIITCH!"

CUSA lost Orlando-Daytona (currently No. 18 TV market according to Nielsen), Memphis (No. 50), New Orleans (No. 51), Tulsa (No. 60) and East Carolina, a school in a puny TV market but with worshiping masses. CUSA added the Miami-Fort Lauderdale (No. 16) and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce (No. 38) markets, which often are seen as a single bloc, the No. 7 market, by sports television suits (this is why the NHL wants the Panthers skates hammered into the ground here); Charlotte (No. 22); Nashville (No. 29); San Antonio (No. 32); Norfolk (No. 42); Shreveport (No. 83); and Bowling Green, Kentucky (No. 182).

Bowling Green being the runt kind of sums up CUSA's problem. Western Kentucky's the most successful athletic program by record in the conference since joining last year. Fans and local media spend significant time and attention on The Hill People. Few football teams enjoy the success and none play a more exciting style of football than Western. But Western's in Bowling Green, so of little help to the conference when asking for media money. It's only 60 miles from Nashville, but this isn't a Louisville-Jeffersonville "Kentuckiana" deal.

Conference USA's in or near major cities. It's just that those major cities devote minor attention to CUSA.

You think FIU's got trouble being heard over the University of Miami, Florida and Florida State, not to mention the Dolphins, Heat, Panthers and Marlins? Try being North Texas, the team in Conference USA's largest market, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the school nearest the league's Irving, Texas headquarters. The Mean Green squeaks behind TCU and SMU locally. And that's once anybody gets past the University of Texas and the Dallas Cowboys, The Galactus Twins, consuming much of that zone's time, energy and attention.

Rice is in Houston. So is the University of Houston. So is Texas. Besides, Rice's 6,500 enrollment, closer to that of Carrollton than Kansas, limits its appeal.

You know the deal with FIU and Florida Atlantic in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach County.

Middle Tennessee State's 40 minutes from Nashville. So 40 minutes from one SEC school, Vanderbilt, under the empire of an SEC sports giant, Tennessee.

Charlotte's a good bring back for basketball as the area loves the college game more than the NBA game. Also, it's a region that finds room to embrace hoopsters from many schools despite the elephantine presence of Duke and North Carolina. For football? Well...

Old Dominion brings a well-funded athletic department and solid following...in the conference's eighth or ninth, depending on how you count South Florida, largest market.

Despite the omnipresence of Texas, Texas-San Antonio has been a good addition for Conference USA. San Antonio's a fertile, nice-sized market in which a CUSA school can maintain visibility without needing football seasons such as 2014 Marshall or 2015 Western or a Sweet Sixteen NCAA men's basketball tournament run. Imagine this kind of exposure/interest for a new football coach at FIU or Middle.

Should CUSA go whole hog into exploring the digital option? Or partner with YouTube or some other streaming video outlet? It's what some professional sports leagues did when they felt they couldn't get enough love or money from cable or broadcast.

Whatever the conference does, for now, we're about to see what kind of moneymakers run each athletic department.

 

 

 

 

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