Myth #1: Does Size Matter?
Every time expansion is brought up, it seems undoubtedly that the same guidelines are always dragged out to be used as the measuring stick for admittance. It makes for an easy way to explain why certain schools will work and why other ones won’t without giving much effort. Even though time changes, it seems the same principles that were used when Miami and Boston College left the Big East are still being dredged up and applied to 2015 logic. For this next series I will try to debunk any myths regarding expansion, which I partially did in my Volume 1 and Volume 2 of my Non Expansionist’s Guide to Expansion series, but this will look at each myth one by one, while giving examples of schools that would fit each criteria.
The myth we are going to look at the here is if the Big 12 should be looking at the size of the city the school is located in when making our decision on expansion? In other words, does size matter?
Yes and no. How is that for a definitive answer?
First things first, city size does not matter in any modern day expansion talk. For any future Big 12 expansion, let me explain why this myth is busted. Although television people would scoff at that statement, the city or market size of a city is becoming increasingly irrelevant in the growing age of streaming media. Measuring the city size is based on the belief that carriage rates matter in the age of the global internet. Notice anybody from Google, Netflix or Apple talking about how they can’t get their apps in certain markets? Of course you don’t because tv markets are totally irrelevant to a company that relies on the internet for distribution. For example, if a person signs up for cable, that does not mean they have access to the NFL Network depending where they live. If a person signs up for the internet, they have guaranteed access to Apple’s itunes store no matter where they live. That is a pretty major difference.
With that kind of unfettered and easy access compared to the old way, one can see why the trend is shifting so quickly towards streaming. With the FCC proposing to raise the standard for what is legally sold as broadband internet to 25 Mbps that will only quicken the pace (no pun intended).
So then what should we measure when it comes to expansion if city size doesn’t matter? I have these three criteria that I believe must be measured.
1. Fan base: If I were to put a blindfold on you and ask which would be more valuable to a conference: a large college in a rapidly growing city in Florida with over 2 million and counting, or a small private school in a declining city in the Midwest with a population of just over 100k and shrinking? How many would choose Central Florida over Notre Dame? Or who do you think has more fans nationwide, St. Johns (NYC) or Army? One is from New York’s (and the world’s) biggest city and the other is from one of New York’s smaller cities. So who has more fans? Army, right? Passion and alumni base means more than population. This is why fan base size and city size are not mutually exclusive.
2. See 1
3. See 2
Astute readers may have noticed that none of my criteria included anything about the need for large population for the host city/region. So what does that mean for expansion? It matters for how tv is currently transitioning to streaming. Can we all agree that with the rollout of services like HBO 2 GO streaming or Dish’s new $20 Sling TV streaming service with ESPN and ESPN 2 among others, that the days of streaming are finally arriving? It may not be ala carte yet, but the age of bloated bundled cable packages as your only choice are rapidly coming to a close. With alternatives like Netflix, customers have been rejecting the rising costs of repetitive, unwanted cable channels at an alarming rate, especially the younger generation. Even if you disagree with the future of bundling, you have to concede that cable’s primary means of distributing their content is transitioning to streaming, if for no other reason so they can provide their content on their customers’ mobile devices, a key factor for the under 30 demographic that they covet.
My prediction, based on the last 10 years is that within the next 10 years cable companies, in whatever form, will be streaming their content exclusively. I am not predicting the demise of cable or satellite in 10 years, just that all of their content will be delivered to your tv/tablet/etc through the internet. The efficiency of distribution to multiple platforms, the far reach of the internet to stream their content, less repetition with central cloud storage, the social media/ad tie ins and I could go on and on, but there really are no incentives to stick to the old ways. That leads to the next undeniable trend that the younger generation has emphatically agreed on: just say no to ownership.
The Subscription Generation
Since music and movies have been distributed, the most common way we have consumed them is buying the individual product and owning it, or paying a one time fee to rent. Whether you bought singles or albums, rented movies, went to a movie or bought movies, you would hand the clerk a certain amount of money and that would be all there was to the financial transaction (outside of those Blockbuster late fees). That method of commerce seemed to work well for every generation since the invention of selling music and movies.
On the flip side, Newspapers and Magazines have lived in both realms, but mostly relied on the subscription model. Although both of those industries may be going the way of the dodo, the subscription model has never been more popular. Although I should point out the distinction that you actually kept the final product in those previous subscription models. This generation has ushered in a new period where we rent the privilege to play the media, but we only own it as long as the subscription lasts. How that differs from subscriptions that we know, it would be akin to Time Magazine sending the goon squad to go recover all their old issues when you cancelled or Comcast coming for your VHS Tapes. So is this disposable consumption because this generation doesn’t appreciate music or movies enough to own them? I honestly believe this shift in movie and music consumption has as much to do with the internet than anything else. Thanks to the internet, the subscription generation lives in a time where ingenuity is happening all around them at a breakneck pace. They probably saw their parents get burned with a huge collection of cds, dvds and even early low quality aac files. Why tie yourself down to one format when things are constantly changing and improving? Contract free subscriptions solves those fears while forcing the companies to improve or die. Although I miss owning media, the ability to cancel with ease and try something else is great for innovation.
So what does this have to do with conference expansion??? Let me explain. If this is the case that streaming and subscriptions are the undeniable trends we are moving to, we are going to have to accept that the future of sports on tv is streaming, and most likely subscription based. Whether we stream on our own, or stream under the ESPN or Fox banner, the only thing that matters will be how many people tune into to watch the
game ads. Carriage rates will be a thing of history for streaming. A band on You Tube doesn’t care where their fans are located, unless they have stalkers, because they make the same amount of money per song played from Nome, Alaska to New York City to some castaway watching on their phone from a shipwrecked island off the coast of Cape Horn on their dying moments of battery life. The quantity of fans is all that matters, not how or where they are located.
So what are the solutions for this scenario? I see two as viable solutions: