SBD/January 6, 2011/Media

FSN Deal Increases C-USA Exposure, Saturday Football Games

Conference USA yesterday announced a five-year deal with FSN worth about $43M after having been on ESPN since '01, and the "pluses outweigh the minuses" of the move for the league, according to Jack Bogaczyk of the CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL. Through the new deal, C-USA "could get into" around 85 million HHs, compared to about 100 million HHs on ESPN, but if fans think the new contract is a "bad move … think again.” The conference's football teams "won't be playing any more Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday home games, other than the rarity,” though there “will be a few Thursdays thrown in.” Also, the financial terms nearly double the ESPN contract, which expires this school year and "was for $22 million over six years.” C-USA “wasn't going to get BCS conference money from ESPN,” and it “wasn't going to land more football appearances with crowded ESPN, unless they were on weeknights.” Bogaczyk notes the ’05-10 ESPN contract “originally was signed in 2001 as an eight-year pact worth about $90 million” to C-USA. But it was “renegotiated down to $22 million" when Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul left C-USA for the Big East. The conference has since “rebuilt itself as an all-sports dozen,” but the league “lost plenty of telecast clout -- and money” -- from the departure of those schools. Bogaczyk: “The conference made a good deal. It doubled its money and appearances in its major package. After taking a hit when it lost big names and big bucks, C-USA prospered this time” (CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL, 1/6).

PLAYING ON SATURDAYS: Univ. of Memphis AD R.C. Johnson said that the new FSN TV deal “was a logical decision.” Johnson: “When you get right down to it, we’ve basically doubled the money and doubled the exposures. And we were able to hang on to CBS (College Sports) as well.” In Memphis, Phil Stukenborg notes the deal “also will eliminate the nontraditional football playing days that caused scheduling headaches" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 1/6). C-USA Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs Courtney Morrison-Archer said, “One exciting aspect of this agreement is the majority of our football games will be able to stay on Saturdays. It’s maximizing not only fans’ ability to attend games, but watch as well. There may possibly be some Thursday night games, but you eliminate other mid-week games that were part of the previous deal” (TULSA WORLD, 1/6). Marshall AD Mike Hamrick: “I’m very pleased. Any time you double your revenue and triple your exposure and have Olympic sports involved, as an athletic director you have to be pleased” (CHARLESTON GAZETTE, 1/6). Southern Miss AD Richard Giannini also is “pleased with the exposure that the partnership with Fox will give the league.” Giannini: “I think it’s huge. I think it’s tremendous. It’s a real breakthrough for us and for our league. I think it’s really, really positive” (HATTIESBURG AMERICAN, 1/6).

CHANNEL SURFING: In Orlando, Iliana Limon notes the new deal “could transform coverage of UCF in the state of Florida, opening the door for Fox regional network Sun Sports to carry more of the Knights football and basketball games.” C-USA officials confirmed that there will be “opportunities for third-tier television agreements with regional networks such as Bright House Sports Network” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/6). In Houston, David Barron notes the agreement “also will bolster FS Houston’s presence as the Rockets and Astros prepare to leave the network” in ’12 (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/6).

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