Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Raycom Sports Gets Alabama High School Football Rights

Raycom Media, which is based in Montgomery, Alabama, recently announced that it'll produce a package of 10 Thursday night high school football games which will feature teams from all over the state of Alabama. The games will be seen throughout the state on the multiple stations which Raycom Media owns and operates.

It's very daring of Raycom to produce a package of games for their local affiliates on the same night CBS and the NFL Network will air primetime NFL games but it tells you how much citizens of Alabama love their local football whether it's high school or college (it also helps that they don't have an NFL team). It became clear to me how much pandemonium there was after I watched Alabama's very own Hoover High School and their old MTV reality show, "Two-A-Days".

Anyways, I wonder if one day this package of HSFB games (coming out of the #10 highest ranked state for high school football according to MaxPreps) along with games from other states like Texas and California could expand their syndication reach nationwide. Why?

1. What happens to Raycom Sports on the day which the ACC decides to buy back their games from Raycom and start their cable sports network in conjunction with ESPN, which owns their rights until the 2026-2027 season? Raycom will have to choose between shutting down their sports operation (which is very likely since it almost shut down when the ACC sold their souls to ESPN) or finding an alternative program to broadcast and syndicate. That alternative program? High school football.

2. Local stations will soon desire sports on their lineups as more rights continue to migrate to cable. Why would they desire sports? Because they would be guaranteed a live audience since no one watches sports on demand. Local stations also have a wide reach and could offer a competitive ratings challenge to the new cable sports networks like NBCSN, CBSSN, FS1 etc. which aren't yet established and/or don't have as many subscribers.

3. America has a wild fascination with football and good, compelling stories. A package of high school games with superb athletes and a compelling story all mixed in with the sport which majority of Americans love to watch could help Raycom carve out new programming to syndicate and replace the ACC in case bullet point #1 ever occurred.

For now, it looks like the syndicated ACC Network is here to stay. They recently secured 90 million homes through local stations around the country. This will help the ACC with recruiting since they'll be exposed to a wider audience now that the SEC's games no longer air on free TV. BTW, a new ACC cable network would probably take 5 years to reach that same audience.

But if the ACC decides to leave free TV soon and Raycom wants to continue in the sports television department, why not develop a brand of sports programming which is very local and hasn't been cultivated to the fullest extent possible on television yet.

Just a thought.


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