SBD/December 7, 2012/Colleges

IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum: College TV Network Heads Discuss Changing Landscape

The panel discussed the effects of TV networks on conference realignment
The proliferation of college-dedicated TV networks over the last few years has changed the landscape of college athletics and was discussed at the '12 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. Big Ten Network, and the revenues it generates, has been cited as a large catalyst for Maryland and Rutgers moving to the Big Ten. BTN President Mark Silverman said, “I really believe the network has been massively overstated as the reason that the conference, which is a minority owner in the network, would really look to do this.” He said he would not speculate so soon about availability in the new markets, “I’m sure we’ll have productive conversations with all our distribution partners.” The different models used to launch these first college networks was discussed prominently in the conversation. When Longhorn Network VP/Programming & Acquisition Dave Brown was asked if he would have done anything differently when the net launched, he replied, “No, I don’t think so. We started out as a long-term proposition, we were lucky enough to do a 20-year deal with the school and we’re a year and a half into it. Certainly we have some work to do but I wouldn’t have done anything differently.” Pac-12 Networks Exec VP & GM Lydia Murphy-Stephans commented on the constant need for live football. She said, “The question is will advertisers support all the games that continue to get regional and national exposure and to what extent? Are we fragmenting the audience or are we able to aggregate the audience. I think it’s endless for how many games the audience wants to see.” The rising cost of RSNs has been noted by several industry leaders recently, but Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures co-Founder Chris Bevilacqua said there are larger problems than sports in the average cable bill. “Distributors are paying too much for channels that nobody watches," he said. "With sports, at least people watch.”

GOING GLOBAL: IMG Media Senior VP/Programming & Distribution Hillary Mandel believes that the international market is an untapped resource for future revenue streams. She said, “It’s an opportunity for all these brands to educate the rest of the world because there’s lack of a relatability on the first level. ... When the growth ceiling gets hit, there’s no question international is another area to tap and it’s going to take more than distribution to make it happen."
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