ESPN signs on with BCS … so, did you pay your cable bill?

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ESPN officially announced today its partnership with the Bowl Championship Series starting in 2011, after the last two years of the Fox deal runs out, and continuing until 2014.

Does it mean there will be no playoff system until 2014?

John Swofford, the BCS coordinator and ACC commissioner, said in a conference call this morning that it’s not likely that any changes will come, but they’re still open to adjusting the format in the future.

While the Rose Bowl remains a separate deal with the Disney Company, ESPN/ABC Sports chief George Bodenheimer also said today that no decision has been made past 2010 about putting that Pasadena classic on ESPN along with all the other BCS games.

Bodenheimer would not confirm that the new deal calls for Disney to pay what’s been widely reported to be $125 million per year for four years, which is $25 million a year more than Fox proposed.

The real sticking point to this with viewers could be determining how many are actually shut out of the BCS title game starting in 2011 with it becomes a cable-exclusive delivered show. Changes in the analog delivery taking place early next year — which may cause more to buy cable — seem to narrow the gap in the over-the-air vs. cable audiences. For example, Fox can deliver the upcoming BCS title game to about 114 million homes; ESPN has about 98 million homes. But in this economy, how many who already can’t afford cable will suddenly buy it just to keep up with the delivery system?

It could also give ESPN some strength to increase its fees to the cable systems, which in turn might increase your cable bill. ESPN today generally runs about $2.85 per subscriber, a relative bargain considering all the rights fees it pays to different leagues and conferences.

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