SBJ/October 10-16, 2011/Colleges

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  • ACC launching digital network

    The ACC is launching its own ad-supported digital network, with plans for a daily news show, a football studio show on game days, and unique behind-the-scenes programming.

    Content slowly began to appear on TheACC.com last week as part of a soft launch, with a more formal unveiling expected this week. Kyle Montgomery has been hired from NBA TV to host studio programming, while former Georgia Tech running back Dorsey Levens will be one of the football analysts.

    The site began to appear last week on TheACC.com as part of a soft launch.
    The digital network is a partnership between the conference; Raycom, a longtime ACC sales and marketing partner; and Silver Chalice, the Chicago-based tech company that helped the conference launch its iPhone app a year ago.

    Initial distribution of the network will be focused on TheACC.com, but the long-term plan calls for its content to go to Internet TV outlets, such as Roku or Netflix, and syndication into other websites, such as newspaper sites that could embed an ACC Digital Network player in its ACC stories.

    Silver Chalice is taking the lead on sponsorship sales, although Raycom will sell as well. They are seeking a company to be the presenting sponsor of the network.

    “We’ve seen other people’s version of a digital network, which sometimes is a green screen with low-impact graphics,” said Jason Coyle, Silver Chalice’s COO. “What we’re planning is TV-quality graphics, high-level talent and production that’s going to make this the first and last stop for ACC fans. It also will have a scale to it that will take it off this platform and onto any place where fans consume their media.”

    Digital networks are all the rage among college conferences. The SEC works with XOS Digital on its version, the Pac-12 has aggregated the digital rights from its schools with the intent to create a network, and the Big Ten recently signed with CBSSports.com College Network to form a centralized portal into the conference’s digital content.

    “This provides a new platform that will showcase more content, in more places, than we’ve ever experienced before,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford.

    While the ACC’s digital network won’t be the only place fans can find live and non-live games, it will feature approximately 50 live ACC Network football and basketball games (those produced and aired by Raycom), 25 ACC championship events, and anywhere from 25 to 100 Olympic sports events that are not selected first by ESPN or Fox Sports Net.

    That live game inventory is in negotiation between Raycom, ESPN and the conference. ESPN also carries live ACC games on ESPN3.com, so digital rights to any games it doesn’t carry have to be resolved. ESPN owns the digital rights to live content, and Raycom sublicenses those games that it produces and distributes as part of a syndicated TV and digital package. Raycom has the non-live rights.

    ACC schools retain some ability to carry games on their websites as well because they have revenue — some advertising, some subscriptions — tied to live streaming. The details of who will carry what are being ironed out, said Colin Smith, who has spearheaded the digital network for Raycom.

    “Schools will still have rights to certain games they produce and we’re asking for a certain number of live events we want exclusively,” said Smith, Raycom’s vice president of distribution and new media.

    No subscriptions will be required to view the digital network. The mobile app will carry network content as well, but a one-time $7.99 charge is required for access to any live games.

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  • Pac-12 Conference selects ESPN Radio to carry football championship

    The Pac-12 Conference continues to finalize the details of its inaugural conference football championship, selecting ESPN Radio to broadcast the Dec. 2 game.

    ESPN Radio will carry the game across its network of stations, satellite radio, online and via its ESPN Radio app for mobile. It has 453 affiliates nationally, as well as 41 ESPN Deportes affiliates.

    “ESPN does a terrific job covering college football, and we are very excited about partnering with ESPN Radio to broadcast our championship game,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “With their great reach across the country, their presence on satellite radio and their promotional strength, we expect an expansive audience for the first-ever championship game.”

    Terms of the deal were not available. ESPN Radio will broadcast 47 football games this season, including 22 bowls and the BCS national championship game.

    The Pac-12 title game will be played on the home field of the team with the best conference record. Fox owns the TV broadcast rights for this season’s game.

    “The Pac-12 championship complements our strong presence in college football,” said Mo Davenport, senior vice president of ESPN Audio.

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  • VFW aims to raise money through Missouri Valley sponsorship

    The VFW’s fundraising arm, which struck sponsorship deals in NASCAR and the NFL in recent years, is moving deeper into sports marketing with a unique new partnership in the Missouri Valley Conference.

    In an effort to raise more money for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, its foundation will work with the MVC for the next three college basketball seasons on a program called “Charity Stripe.” The conference and its 10 schools throughout the Midwest will encourage fans and corporate partners to give money based on the number of free throws made during the conference season. Portions of the MVC’s official website, mvcsports.com, will be dedicated to the Charity Stripe program.

    The three-year sponsorship will cost the VFW Foundation $165,000 annually. Based on a typical season in which about 2,600 free throws are made in conference play, the VFW would need about $63.50 per free throw to make its money back.

    The conference’s other partners, such as State Farm, Emerson Electric Co., Casey’s General Store and others, are expected to participate along with fans.

    The VFW will receive ad time on MVC TV broadcasts, in-arena signage and other assets to run its public-service messages and promote its overarching “Return the Favor” fundraising platform. On campus, MVC schools will honor Veterans Day with a “military appreciation” game on or around Nov. 11 near the start of the season.

    MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin will present the VFW Foundation with a check at the basketball tournament in March.

    “When people think of the VFW, most think of their local post and its members, and that’s a big part of it,” said Dustin Kuhn, the VFW Foundation’s manager of corporate relations. “But there’s a lot of charitable work done for active military and their families — welcome homes, send-offs — that a lot of people aren’t aware of. We see this as an important way for us to spread our message and build awareness for what we’re doing.”

    The VFW moved into sports marketing three years ago with title sponsorship of the NASCAR VFW 200 race at Michigan International Speedway in the Camping World Truck Series. It subsequently has added a partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs in the city where the VFW Foundation is headquartered. The new arrangement with the MVC is another step in growing awareness in the Midwest.

    “We were really encouraged by our results in NASCAR and the NFL,” Kuhn said. “We’ve really tried to take the best elements of those programs and bring them together into this one.”

    The VFW Foundation deal was sold by Learfield Sports, which manages MVC Sports Properties. Branden Miller, who leads sales efforts as general manager, has been with MVC Sports Properties since Learfield won the business about 18 months ago. The MVC previously handled its sales and marketing in-house.

    Learfield also has sold title sponsorship of the men’s and women’s Player of the Year awards to Emerson, a company that provides parts for air conditioners, appliances and heavy machinery. Caterpillar is one of Emerson’s largest clients.

    Emerson has been a corporate partner with the MVC for close to 20 years, but this most recent deal marks the first time the conference has sold title sponsorship to its two biggest trophies.

    Bob Cox, Emerson’s senior vice president of administration, said sponsoring the Larry Bird and Jackie Stiles awards for Player of the Year combined the company’s involvement in education with its long-standing support of the conference basketball tournament in St. Louis, where Emerson is headquartered. Emerson also sponsors post-graduate scholarships for MVC student athletes and recruits heavily for engineering students from MVC schools, Cox said.

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