SBD/March 20, 2013/Media

Big East, ESPN Deal Worth Reported $126M Could End If Two More Schools Depart

Football games will be scheduled Thursday and Fridays, not Mondays or Tuesdays
If the to-be-renamed Big East “loses two more schools to conference realignment, the league's seven-year media rights deal can be terminated,” according to sources cited by Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com. Sources said the deal, which was formally announced yesterday, is worth $126M. ESPN last month “matched an offer made by NBC Sports Network and was awarded the Big East's media rights.” Because it is the “primary rights holder, it was able to retain the conference's media rights simply by matching the league's best offer.” But sources said that ESPN “could only match NBC Sports Network's deal and not change the language of the contract.” Sources said that the NBC deal “divided the league into Group A (Connecticut, Cincinnati, Houston and Temple) and Group B (the remaining members).” The media rights deal “can be terminated if either two Group A schools leave or one Group A and one Group B school leave.” Sources said that if "two Group B schools leave, the contract will be renegotiated” (ESPN.com, 3/19). With the agreement, ESPN will have exclusive worldwide distribution rights across all media. All sports will be covered by the deal from '14-15 through '19-20, following a bridge year for the conference’s basketball rights in '13-14. The net will have rights to all basketball games -- including the conference championship -- that are not covered by CBS. ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus said that the deal allows for a limited sub-license to other national broadcasters or RSNs. Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said a network deal for basketball rights that “dovetails” with the ESPN deal will be announced “in all likelihood next week.” Games will be available across ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, ESPNU, ESPNEWS and ESPN3, as well as mobile and digital via the WatchESPN authenticated service (Andrew Westney, Staff Writer).

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS OUT?
Aresco said that the league “will not play home Monday or Tuesday football games but will schedule games on Thursdays and Fridays.” He said the league will be “very sensitive” regarding home scheduling for the Univ. of Houston and SMU to the potential for competition with Texas high school football games on Thursdays and Fridays and "will work with (schools) and our partners" on scheduling issues in Texas (CHRON.com, 3/19).

STEADY AS SHE GOES: CBSSPORTS.com’s Dennis Dodd reported Navy as part of the deal will “retain the television rights to its home and selected rivalry games.” Navy is “committed to joining” the new conference in ‘15 as a football-only member. However, it will “keep its home TV rights with CBS/CBS Sports Network” through ‘17. In addition, Navy's home game with Notre Dame will be televised on CBS in ‘14 and ‘16, “with an option” for ‘18. The Army-Navy game is “committed to CBS” through ‘18. A CBS spokesperson said that there “would be no comment, but pointed out that Navy's deal is part of an existing contract” (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/19).

PEACEFUL, EASY FEELING: Aresco yesterday dismissed media reports of member schools disagreeing about the division of revenue. He said, “Nothing could be further from the truth. There has been no infighting at all regarding distribution of money. ... We have a fair amount of revenue, some of which we would have preferred not to have gathered in, obviously, as some of it was the result of exit fees and that sort of thing. On the other hand, those revenues and other revenues in our conference will be equitably distributed and there has been no infighting at all. It has been a very cordial, very straightforward process” (Westney).

NAME GAME: Aresco said that the conference “should have a name by late April or early May,” and the process of “picking a brand is ongoing.” In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes Aresco “offered no candidates.” Aresco said, “We know we need to move expeditiously. We've been very deliberate about this. We have a process, we have branding groups we're working with. We've developed a process where we're going to obviously go through names that reflect what our conference is, what our conference wants to be, what we're aspiring to be” (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/20). Aresco said fans are “like a national focus group” for the renaming process. He added that the conference will work with ESPN on the rebranding. But he clarified it is “our decision” and ESPN has “never once asked us about a name” (Westney).
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