SBJ/April 11-17, 2011/Media

Fox in talks for USC multimedia rights

The University of Southern California has moved into exclusive negotiations with Fox Sports for the school’s multimedia rights, according to industry sources.

While USC and Fox have not completed a deal for the rights, the two are in talks for a comprehensive package that would include radio, corporate sponsorships, venue signage, digital and other marketing rights.

With the Pac-10 moving toward the creation of its own TV channel, local TV rights are not part of the discussions. All of the schools in the Pac-10 have committed their TV rights to the league office for the next 15 years, giving the conference control over all of the football and basketball game inventory. The league’s current TV deal runs out after the 2011-12
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Fox is expected to hire Wasserman Media Group as sales agent if it signs USC.
academic year.

A deal with USC would represent Fox’s first move into the multimedia rights space since 2008, when its Sun Sports RSN signed a media rights deal with the University of Florida worth about $100 million over 10 years. In the Florida deal, Fox retained IMG to manage the property.

The USC deal would be a different model for Fox, as it would work directly with the school. Fox has extensive experience selling college inventory on the West Coast through Pac-10 Properties, the sales, marketing and merchandising arm for the conference.

Additionally, Wasserman Media Group, which worked with Fox on a valuation for the USC property, is expected to work with Fox as a sales agent if the network secures an agreement with the Trojans, but Fox would take the lead on the relationship with the school.

It’s also possible that Fox could use the executives and resources at Pac-10 Properties to manage the marketing relationship with USC.

The Trojans have handled their marketing and media rights in-house in the past. This marks the first time under new Athletic Director Pat Haden that the school has investigated an outsourcing model.

Fox began talks with USC last month after the network posted the highest bid among a group of competitors that included IMG College and Learfield Sports. Fox’s bid was believed to be close to $10 million a year over a 10-year period, which is believed to be well above the estimated $6 million a year USC currently makes by selling its rights in-house.

There remains no guarantee that USC will move forward with selecting a partner for its rights or that it couldn’t move on to IMG College or Learfield if a deal can’t be reached with Fox.

If Fox does land the USC rights, it does not signal a shift that would see the company aggressively seek other schools’ multimedia rights, sources said. USC presents a convenient opportunity for Fox, since they are both based in Los Angeles and Southern Cal offers a premier football program with a national appeal.

Fox initially went into the process with Wasserman Media Group and Legends Hospitality Management as partners. Legends was on board as a licensing and merchandising agent, industry sources said. Since then, USC’s talks have focused on Fox, while the merchandising negotiations with Legends have become a separate conversation.

IMG’s Collegiate Licensing Co. is the industry leader in collegiate licensing, and Licensing Resource Group has a healthy list of college clients as well, but USC has kept its licensing rights in-house over the years.

This would mark the first collegiate merchandising property for Legends, which works with the Rose Bowl and the University of Connecticut on premium seating sales.

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