SBD/July 13, 2011/Media

Southern Conference Reaches Deal To Televise Football Games On Public TV Stations

The Southern Conference "has agreed to a three-year deal with public over-the-air networks in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina that will put the league's football games in nearly 11 million households, about 20 percent more than what the conference is used to having," according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Fox SportSouth, "which is in just under 9 million households, had been the longtime home for the conference's football games." But Fox "has acquired more college content through new agreements with the Pac-12, Big 12 and Conference USA to go with what it had already," and there "wasn't as much room for the Southern Conference." In the spring, Atlanta-based sports marketing firm CSE "agreed to manage the conference's multimedia and marketing rights." CSE Senior VP/Programming & Media Services Ned Simon said that the decision to "pursue a deal with over-the-air public television networks came as CSE brainstormed alternative methods of distribution for smaller conferences." Simon: "Public TV struck us as an untapped area with a very broad reach. We thought it offered more possibilities than syndication." Smith notes public TV gives the conference a "consistently weekly start time of 3 p.m. on eight fall Saturdays, meaning the conference won't have to move games to weekdays." It also "lets the Southern Conference retain the rights to stream these televised games live on SoConSports.com, something it didn't have the right to do in past years with Fox" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/11 issue). Georgia Public Broadcasting "will cover the Chattanooga, Tenn., market," and the conference said that it is "exploring additional distribution outlets in Alabama and Tennessee" (THETIMESNEWS.com, 7/11).

ORIGINAL IDEA: SoCon Commissioner John Iamarino said that ADs "weren't happy with the Fox arrangement because the network wasn't able to guarantee game windows, wasn't paying a rights fee and wouldn't allow the conference to stream games on its website." Under the new deal, ad spots "would have to conform to strict public broadcasting underwriting rules, making revenue potential for the deal uncertain." Iamarino: "This is kind of out of the box for us. I don't know of any statewide networks doing this" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/12). He added, "It's a leap of faith for us to do this. And it will be incumbent upon us to do a good job educating the public on where the games can be found. But in this age of 500 digital channels, we all rely on information in order to find what we want to watch" (Charleston POST & COURIER, 7/12).
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Football, Media, Michael Smith

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