SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/Media

$25M fee secures first Pac-12 title game, more regular-season inventory for Fox

actionHarry How
Fox grabbed the title game, which it will broadcast before the Big Ten championship.
Fox has secured the rights to the Pac-12 Conference’s football championship game this year, giving the network a doubleheader of championship games on Dec. 3. Fox also has the Big Ten’s title game that day.
Industry sources say Fox is paying the Pac-12 $25 million for the championship game and additional regular-season inventory that is the result of the conference’s expansion from 10 teams to 12 with Colorado and Utah.
The value of the championship game itself is $14.5 million, according to sources, with the rest of the value — $10.5 million — attributed to six additional regular-season Pac-12 football games next season on Fox Sports Net. Those games were part of a prior contractual obligation that Fox agreed to with the conference.
Fox’s deal with the Big Ten included a longer term of six years for $20 million to $25 million a year, plus $7 million a year for additional regular-season inventory that comes from the conference’s addition of Nebraska.
The Pac-10, which will officially become the Pac-12 on July 1, initially negotiated its championship game with ESPN, but the two sides could not reach a deal. When the game went to the open market, the conference came to terms with Fox.
“This is truly a game-changer because Fox is sending a serious message here that they see college sports as a critically important strategic initiative,” said Chris Bevilacqua, who is part of the media advisory team at Evolution Media Capital that works with the Pac-12. “With their recent acquisition of the Big Ten championship game and now the agreement they’ve struck with the Pac-12 for one year, Fox is showing they are serious about challenging ESPN’s dominance of college sports.”
Fox’s lineup on Dec. 3 puts the Pac-12 game in an afternoon time slot at 3:30 p.m. ET with the Big Ten’s game following in prime time. Fox’s shoulder programming is expected to include a college football pregame show as well as a bridge show between the two games.
Pac-10 Properties, which is managed by Fox, will hold the marketing rights to the game. The inventory for the inaugural game is not expected to include a title sponsor because the deal is for just one year.
The only drawback appears to be that USC, the league’s premier football brand, will not be eligible for the championship game. The Trojans are serving a two-year postseason ban as part of NCAA sanctions from the Reggie Bush scandal.
Fox’s acquisitions also put a dent in ESPN’s lineup on Dec. 3, which will feature just one title game, from the ACC. The Big 12, which lost Colorado and Nebraska, dropping it to 10 teams, no longer has a championship game.
CBS carries the SEC championship.
This spring, the Pac-10 will enter into negotiations for its next media deal. The current contracts with Fox and ABC/ESPN expire after the 2011-12 seasons.
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