CFB Playoff a Game-Changer

Mergers may Clear Field for regional sports nets
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In the wide world of sports, the balls and deals never stop spinning. Here are three predictions, fearless and otherwise, that figure to unfurl in 2015.

College Football Coronation: Baylor and TCU certainly have cause to protest, but for the most part, college football fans are cheering the new playoff system. Count ESPN, which is allocating $5.6 billion over 12 years, among them.

The Worldwide Leader will benefit from a New Year’s Day doubleheader brimming with traditional powers, Phil Knight’s favorite team and geographic diversity. The opener is the “Heisman Bowl,” aka the Rose Bowl, pitting No. 2 Oregon and this year’s winner, Marcus Mariota, vs. defending champion Florida State and 2013 winner Jameis Winston. The nightcap, the Sugar Bowl, is the über-coaching special, with Nick Saban’s top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide hoping to roll The Ohio State of Urban Meyer. If the semifinals don’t punt the 2010 BCS championship game between Auburn-Oregon from the Nielsen record book, then the Jan. 12 title tilt will. The over to score as the most-watched cablecast in history: 27.3 million viewers.

PPV Megafight: After years of drug testing and purse-split excuses, rants and animus, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will finally engage in a long-awaited, if pasttheir- prime, encounter in the ring.

Mayweather, in a recent Showtime interview, said he wants to fight on May 2, while the Filipino politico is saying, let’s give the people what they want. The boxers and Showtime and HBO will likely have to forge a joint PPV promotion, a la Lennox Lewis- Mike Tyson circa 2002. This time, the boxers’s advancing years and love of money won’t stand in their way. In fact, Mayweather is talking a standard rematch clause. Let’s not get greedy: Money-Pac Man KOs the record $150 million in PPV record generated by Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez in 2013.

Distribution Dealings: If the Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers pass federal muster this winter, it could help end carriage impasses for key properties. SportsNet LA, aka the Dodgers’s regional sports network, was only carried by Time Warner Cable and programming beneficiary Bright House Networks during its 2014 rookie season, as other distributors balked at monthly license fees in excess of $4. The addition of SportsNet LA to the Comcast SportsNet stable may get others, including DirecTV and AT&T, to get on board.

If the satellite-TV provider merges with the telco, DirecTV may join U-verse in distributing the Pac-12 Networks. On the streaming front, Major League Baseball is likely to follow the National Basketball Association’s lead and open up the TV everywhere universe to the RSNs that have deals with its clubs. By opening day, there should be a pretty good early read on Dish’s OTT service, featuring ESPN and ESPN2. Although the new national rights deal doesn’t tip off until the 2016-17 season, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Multichannel News that the league’s streaming service with ESPN can start sooner.

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