Three reasons why Notre Dame fans should be elated about the new NBC deal
Jake Miller | Tuesday, November 21, 2023
On Saturday, Comcast NBCUniversal and the University of Notre Dame announced a new deal for the TV rights to Notre Dame football, running through 2029. The new deal will hand the Irish around $50 million per year, in addition to the roughly $17 million Notre Dame receives from the ACC.
Personally, I believe the new contract is a massive win for the University and her fans. While Notre Dame may not be receiving as much as teams in the Big Ten or SEC, the lost funds are easily made up for in three other areas:
1. Weekly National Availability
Notre Dame will continue to play the majority of its games in its trademark 3:30 p.m. EST time slot, most convenient for its national audience. For fans across the country, the game is on at a reasonable hour. Never playing a noon kickoff at home is a big deal, especially as TV executives try to place games in spots with less competition. Additionally, the 3:30 p.m. EST time slot generally has weaker national competition. Next year, CBS will lose the rights to a 3:30 p.m. EST SEC Game of the Week, replacing it with a mid-tier Big Ten game. FOX puts its best game on its Big Noon Kickoff at noon. Generally, ESPN/ABC puts its best game in primetime. This is beneficial for Notre Dame, as it will rarely have to go up against a must-watch game.
Furthermore, Notre Dame has a guaranteed spot on a linear channel. Only in extremely rare circumstances would Notre Dame football be pushed to a secondary channel like USA Network. Notre Dame is expected to continue to play one game per year on Peacock. However, this is expected to remain an early-season game against a team that it is handily expected to beat. Fans should not expect games against Florida State, Louisville or Texas A&M to be exclusive to the streaming service.
2. Continued Independence
For years, athletic director Jack Swarbrick has said that Notre Dame would continue to hold onto its independence, as long as the program made competitive money from its TV deal and had a fair path to the College Football Playoff. Say what you want about Swarbrick — he resolved both of these question marks. Notre Dame will continue to play four rotating games each year in addition to its five games against ACC programs and longtime matchups with Navy, Stanford and USC. Notre Dame’s independence actually presents the school with an easier path to the College Football Playoff.
This year, Notre Dame had an unusually difficult schedule, but in future years, unless it wants to, Notre Dame won’t have to play a Big Ten-level schedule. For example, take Michigan’s schedule next year, which includes games against Texas, USC, Washington, Oregon and Ohio State.
Those home games will make a lot of money, and it’ll be fun for Wolverine fans if the team wins. But imagine if they lose three games. They most likely wouldn’t make the Playoff. Notre Dame can usually get around playing brutal schedules like this, inserting fun, competitive games at times where it makes sense but also allowing the schedule to breathe, creating an easier path to postseason play.
3. An Ego Boost
OK, well, this one isn’t so much a tangible reason to be happy. But this deal demonstrates that America still loves Notre Dame. Obviously, the program hasn’t seen championship-level success since 1988. In the past 10 years, we’ve seen massive changes in the sport. With the rise of NIL, new transfer portal rules and conference realignment, even more transition can be expected in the immediate future.
Nonetheless, Notre Dame has largely kept up with its competition. People care about Notre Dame. America cares about Notre Dame. Last year, in an off-year filled with injuries, Notre Dame ranked sixth in TV viewership.
Despite a lack of tangible success or a massive bowl win, Notre Dame is keeping up with the signs of the times. How have other programs with similar late 20th-century success fared? Look at Nebraska, Miami and Florida State! FSU had one title, but for the most part, those teams have seen massive dips in relevance and viewership. Notre Dame’s stubborn eagerness to stay true to its plan has paid off.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.