SBD/May 3, 2011/Media

C-USA Responds To ESPN's Lawsuit Over Conference's New TV Rights Deal With Fox

Conference USA signed a 5-year, $43M contract agreement with Fox in January
Conference USA attorney Orin Snyder has “asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit ESPN filed against the league over its new television contract” with Fox, according to Iliana Limon of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. ESPN in the lawsuit alleges that “it reached a contract extension agreement with Conference USA via e-mail, but the league later decided to pursue a new deal with Fox Sports Media Group.” ESPN also alleges that C-USA “never gave the network a final offer to consider before beginning negotiations with Fox, a right ESPN contends was part of the previous contract.” ESPN “asked the court to enforce terms of a $22-million, five-year agreement it contends it reached with Conference USA, voiding the $43-million, five-year contract agreement the league reached with Fox Sports Media Group in January.” Snyder said, "Unfortunately, ESPN appears to be using this lawsuit to send a message to the marketplace. The lawsuit is without any merit, and we are confident that it will be dismissed." C-USA last week issued a response to ESPN’s complaint, claiming that Commissioner Britton Banowsky and ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus “agreed to select terms for a potential extension.” But the conference “argues Banowsky and Magnus agreed in June they needed ‘to negotiate and execute a long-form agreement before being contractually bound.’" C-USA's original contract with ESPN from July ‘05 through June ‘11 “states the network is eligible for the right to an extension or renewal if it only changes the amount of money paid to the conference.” The conference argues that ESPN “was the first to introduce changes during the contract negotiations, voiding its right to refuse a final offer from the conference before it began negotiating with other parties” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/3).
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