Hello, everyone! Happy Sunday! I hope you’re all enjoying the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, which is absolutely flying by. The Elite Eight starts tonight! Exclamation mark!
This will be a quick newsletter, I promise. Earlier this week at Power Plays, I wrote about The Unit — a payout that the NCAA gives conferences for games played in the men’s tournament, which has no equivalent in the women’s tournament. This weekend, head coaches Dawn Staley, Tara VanDerveer, and Courtney Banghart — and possibly more! — have all talked about The Unit’s importance.
In the spirit of keeping the NCAA’s sexism in the spotlight, I have taken away the paywall from a Power Plays project I did at the end of 2021, The NCAA gender inequity files. This project was a deep-dive into the Kaplan & Heckler Report, which the NCAA commissioned when its mistreatment of women’s basketball was put in the spotlight during the 2021 women’s basketball tournament.
Here are all five parts of the series, which have been only available for paying Power Plays subscribers until right now:
I’m opening this series up because I think it’s some of the most important work we’ve done here at Power Plays, and so I want everyone to read it. I also do hope you’ll consider becoming a paying Power Plays subscriber by taking advantage of the March Madness Special, and help make more work like this possible.
I know five newsletters is a lot to read, but if I were you I would prioritize parts 3 and 4, “How the NCAA disincentivizes sponsors from investing in women's basketball” and “The NCAA’s vicious cycle of devaluation.”
Additionally — because I care, and am ADHD and have always appreciated a good summary — I’ve posted a few adapted excerpts from parts 3 and 4 below!
Go forth and learn about how fucked up this system truly is.
ESPN pays the NCAA approximately $34 million a year to broadcast 29 NCAA championships, including women’s basketball; meanwhile, CBS/Turner pays the NCAA approximately $1 billion per year to broadcast the men’s NCAA basketball championships.
That $1 billion isn’t solely for broadcast rights to the men’s NCAA basketball championship. It also gives them sponsorship rights for every single NCAA championship – all 90 of them.
To manage these sponsorships, CBS/Turner and the NCAA have developed a Corporate Champions and Partner Program. As one would expect, CBS/Turner only really cares about making money for CBS/Turner, so they’re only incentivized to develop sponsors for the men’s basketball championships.
According to the Desser Media & Sponsorship Addendum, CBS/Turner “don’t actually want those sponsors to spend anything on the ESPN presentation of the WBBC or the NCAA’s Other Championships if it results in any decrease in buying MBBC inventory or other CBS/Turner-owned inventory.”
So, if you’re a part of the official Corporate Champions and Partner Program, you are mandated to buy ads for the men’s tournament. It’s automatic, baked in, a given. But if you want to air your official ads during the women’s tournament, you have to SEPARATELY contact ESPN to negotiate that. This huge Corporate Champions and Partner Program cannot help you.
Excerpts from “The NCAA’s vicious cycle of devaluation”
As mentioned above, ESPN pays the NCAA approximately $34 million a year to broadcast 29 NCAA championships, including women’s basketball. But the Desser Media & Sponsorship Addendum to the Kaplan & Heckler Report found that ESPN is *way* underpaying.
From Desser: “We estimate the WBBC alone to be worth between $81-112 million/year beginning in 2025, the first year after the current NCAA agreement with ESPN expires. A new 8-year, $909 million deal would be worth an average of about $114 million per year; a 10-year, $1.2 billion agreement would average $118 million per year.”
The NCAA should demand much more money for broadcast rights of the women’s tournament because it is a premiere property for the network, and ratings are on the rise. The 2021 women’s championship game on ESPN averaged 4.1 million viewers, an increase of 9% over the 2019 championship. The men’s championship game on CBS attracted 16.9 million viewers, a decrease of 8% over 2019.
The men’s championship has four times the viewers but a TV rights deal that generates about 100 times the revenue.
Okay, honestly, the rest of it is hard to summarize any better than I did in the initial newsletter, so go read it all now that it’s unlocked!!!!!!!!!!
Time for me to go watch South Carolina and Creighton, talk to you again tomorrow!
Power Plays is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.