SBD/June 26, 2013/Media

KU Inks Seven-Year Media Rights Deal With ESPN; ESPN3 To Air 70 Events Nationally

KU joins Texas as the only Big 12 school with a third-tier rights agreement with ESPN
Univ. of Kansas Athletics and ESPN have agreed to a seven-year deal for the school's national Tier-3 rights, starting with the '13-14 academic year. In what is being called one of the largest deals to date for ESPN3, the online service will annually carry a minimum of 70 live events distributed nationally. KU recently announced a deal with Time Warner Cable for 50 telecasts on K.C.-based Metro Sports. ESPN3 will deliver those 50 events nationally outside the K.C. market, plus a minimum of 20 exclusive contests (ESPN). In Kansas, Matt Tait noted while the new deals with ESPN and TWC will "put KU athletics in more homes than Texas’ more highly publicized Longhorn Network, they leave in question the availability of six early-season men’s basketball games that KU fans across Kansas have become accustomed to seeing: two exhibition games and four regular-season, non-conference games." Fans without TWC or ESPN3 may "miss those six games." Even those who "have the subscription-based ESPN Full Court service, which only includes regular-season college basketball contests, will miss the two exhibition games." All other games will "be unaffected" (LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD, 6/26). KU Associate AD/Public Affairs Jim Marchiony said that the school was "still working on the details for markets outside of Kansas City, including Wichita." KU officials previously said that all KU basketball games would "be available state-wide." In K.C., Rustin Dodd notes KU "joins Texas as the only Big 12 school with a third-tier rights agreement with ESPN" (K.C. STAR, 6/26). In Topeka, Kevin Haskin wrote, "On the road? Plan on moving? This package could really help you stay connected with the Jayhawks. ... Downloading is quite easy for some who constantly watch events on their phones, tablets, laptops and televisions" (CJONLINE.com, 6/25).

DOES DEAL SIGNAL REALIGNMENT'S RENEWAL? SI.com's Andy Staples wrote KU's deal with ESPN and the "next few like it should give us a much better idea about the next step for college sports at large." Staples predicts there will "be another wave of realignment," and the ACC's agreement to a Grant of Rights for the remainder of its media rights deal with ESPN "merely pressed the pause button." The recent "wave of realignment was defined by cable subscriber fees and new markets." Staples: "What will define the next one? We're about to find out." If deals like KU's "are a hit" and ESPN execs "decide the future will be piped through a router and not a cable box, then they have the infrastructure in place to become their own distributor" (SI.com, 6/25). Meanwhile, CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd writes under the header, "Kansas Quietly Monetizes The Last Valuable Piece Of College Sports TV." Dodd: "This KU deal is similar to the Longhorn Network except, in this case, there is no mewling about availability, distribution or clearance. it can be argued at this moment those six Kansas men's basketball games and one football game are the most valuable pieces of college programming available until the Big Ten's current contract runs out in 2016" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/26).
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