SBJ/20080707/This Week's News

IMG, Frank to rep BCS in TV talks

The Bowl Championship Series has selected IMG Sports Media and longtime TV adviser Barry Frank to represent the property in the next round of media negotiations with Fox and other suitors.

As the incumbent, Fox will have an exclusive 30-day negotiating period that is expected to begin this fall, likely in September, to extend the deal that runs two more seasons. If those discussions don’t produce a new agreement, the BCS will negotiate with other prospective partners.

ABC/ESPN is expected to make a lucrative offer to regain the BCS rights that it lost in the previous contract, industry insiders say, because the networks have such an extensive regular-season package and only the Rose Bowl to go with it among the major bowls.

Despite owning the BCS rights since the 2006-07 season, Fox has not been able to assemble a regular-season college football package. With the Big Ten, Big 12 and now, apparently, the Southeastern Conference signing long-term deals with other networks, it’s not likely that Fox will have a regular-season package when it begins negotiating a new BCS contract. The SEC is expected to renew with CBS and ESPN.

With Fox and ABC/ESPN expected to duel for the rights, the fee will likely take a significant jump from the $330 million, four-year deal that is currently in effect, especially with ratings that have delivered the highest non-NFL numbers of the year.

In Fox’s first season, the BCS title game (Florida-Ohio State) drew a 17.4 rating, while last season’s championship matchup (LSU-Ohio State) did a 14.4.

“The BCS is one of the top two most valuable properties in U.S. sports, with the Super Bowl,” Frank said.

Frank, a former executive at ABC and CBS, and IMG’s executive vice president for media sports programming, will lead IMG’s advising efforts.

Frank and John Swofford, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the BCS coordinator for the next two years, will be on point for the BCS’s TV negotiations. Frank and Swofford will then jointly take a recommendation to the other 10 conference commissioners and the Notre Dame athletic director, all of whom manage the BCS.

The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl and the BCS title matchup are the four games involved in this BCS contract. The Rose Bowl has its own TV deal with ABC through the 2014 game.

The BCS solicited representation proposals, which were made in writing over the last six to eight weeks. Sources say that Wasserman Media Group, former ESPN executive Chuck Gerber and former CBS executive Kevin O’Malley were also considered.

IMG represents Swofford and the ACC on its TV matters. Terms of the IMG/BCS arrangement were not available.

O’Malley represented the BCS in its most recent negotiations on the TV deal with Fox, which was hammered out in 2005 and runs from the 2007 season through 2010.

In the BCS TV arrangement, most of a network’s revenue comes from advertising and sponsorships, especially the title sponsorships on the games, as well as some merchandise revenue from DVD sales, international rights and new media rights. IMG now sells the international rights for Fox.

Swofford has said that the BCS will look for another four-year deal so that its contract will end at the same time as the Rose Bowl’s contract with ABC in 2014.

For IMG, the agreement with the BCS deepens its influence in the college space. IMG College, a division separate from IMG Sports Media, owns the marketing rights for the NCAA, as well as a multimedia rights holder business, formerly Host Communications, and Collegiate Licensing Co.

Staff writer John Ourand contributed to this story.

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