College football will get into full swing Saturday, with the television picture at least a little clearer than it was last season.
In June 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision voiding the NCAA's tightly constructed television contracts with ABC and CBS. What that did was create an open market--and chaos.
Under the old system, the NCAA held its members on a tight rein. They could make only three live TV appearances, two if they had made three the previous year. Only networks could carry games live. Local telecasts had to be tape-delayed.
Last season, after the Supreme Court decision, there was live college football on TV every Saturday, from early morning until late at night. Often there were several games on at a time.
TV-Radio / Larry Stewart By LARRY STEWART
Los Angeles Times Friday September 13, 1985 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 3 Column 1 Sports Desk 2 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Column; Correction
For the record: It was incorrectly reported in this space last week that Katz Sports defaulted on a $2.9-million contract with the Big Ten last season. In fact, it was another syndicator that defaulted on the contract. Katz never had a deal with the Big Ten, nor did it default on any contract.
The selection benefited the viewers, but not the colleges. The big money suddenly disappeared.
The glut of college football drove the ratings down, and advertisers paid less than they were expected to, or, in some cases, dropped out. Syndicators who paid more for TV rights than they should have, lost money--and some went out of business.
TCS/Metrosports, the Pacific 10 syndicator, was one of those. The conference collected only $2.5 million of the $3 million it had coming from TCS/Metrosports, and subsequently filed a suit in an effort to collect the remaining $500,000.
Another syndicator, Katz Sports, defaulted on a $2.9-million deal with the Big Ten.
Although many of the syndicators that were around last season have fallen by the wayside, there will still be almost nonstop college football on every Saturday this season, mainly because of Ted Turner's WTBS, which has beefed up its schedule.
WTBS will televise games involving Southeastern Conference teams and Southern independents in the morning or early afternoon, then will show a 5 p.m. game involving teams from the Pac-10, Big Ten or Athletic Coast Conference. All WTBS telecasts will also be carried by Channel 13.
CBS, meanwhile, will televise morning or early-afternoon games involving teams from the Pac-10, Big Ten and ACC. CBS has separate deals with the University of Miami, Army and Navy.
ABC will televise games involving teams outside the Pac-10 and Big Ten that make up the College Football Assn.
CBS has already announced much of its schedule, and ABC will announce its schedule as the season progresses. Donn Bernstein, ABC's college sports coordinator, said: "We have a bigger inventory of games, so it's prudent that we wait and see which games will be the best."
The USA cable network will televise a CFA game at 9 a.m. every Saturday. ESPN, meanwhile, will televise a 4:30 p.m. game every Saturday, and these will compete with the 5 p.m. telecasts of WTBS.
Said Bernstein: "I think WTBS' move to night-time football is a careless one. We at ABC have found college football does not fare well on Saturday nights. Plus, WTBS' audience is being fragmented by the ESPN package."
The money that college football will earn from television this season is considerably less than it would have been had things remained the way they were before the Supreme Court decision.
ABC's Bernstein figures that under the old system, the total would have been at least $92 million. ABC and CBS would have each chipped in $36 million, with WTBS offering up another $20 million or so, Bernstein said.
Under the current system, this season's total television gross will be about $55 million, according to Bernstein. That breaks down to $15 million from ABC, $13 million from CBS, $12 million from ESPN, $10 million from WTBS, $1 million from Telstar (a syndication outfit that packages the Big East, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse), $1 million from Raycom (which packages the Big Eight and Southwest conferences) and about $3 million from assorted other syndicators.
"The ones who are really losing out now are the small fries who used to share in the TV revenue even if they didn't get on," Bernstein said.
Pac-10 schools, meanwhile, earned a little more in 1984 than they did in 1983, but figure to make less this season than in either of the previous two.
For the 1983 season, the Pac-10 earned about $7 million from TV, and last season, it earned about $7.25 million, even though it lost $500,000 when TCS/Metrosports went bankrupt. This season, with USC banned from TV and no separate package, Pac-10 schools will gross only about $6.25 million, with $4.25 million coming from CBS and $2 million coming from WTBS.