Over the past 30 years, Chris Bevilacqua has established himself as a leader in the sports and media business, including being at the forefront of two transformative eras in sports media history. Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures (BHV) represents a continuation and expansion of business he previously conducted as founder and CEO of Bevilacqua Media Company (BMC).
Recognizing in the late 1990's that following the Telecommunications Act of 1996 there was going to be an explosion of investment by media companies into new technology and distribution platforms (i.e., the birth of satellite TV, digital cable and a robust internet), Bevilacqua believed that there were going to be enormous opportunities for content owners, especially those with valuable under-exploited sports rights. So in the early 2000's he set about founding and creating CSTV, the first-ever 24-hour cable TV network dedicated to college and amateur sports. CSTV was then followed by the launch of Fox College Sports and ESPNU.
His vision and efforts for CSTV led to the acquisition of the digital media company OCSN (Official College Sports Network), which eventually became the industry-leading CSTV.com portal. After raising $100 million in private equity financing from blue chip investors during the period of 2002-2005, CSTV was acquired by CBS Corporation in early 2006 for $325 million and is now known as the CBS Sports Network.
Additionally, in 2006 as part of CSTV's efforts, Bevilacqua created the first-ever 24-hour collegiate conference sports network, the MountainWest Sports Network, which served as a model for the highly successful and subsequent Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Networks and SEC Network.
Also, during the early 2000's Bevilacqua was an early investor and advisor to online ticketing company, StubHub, which was acquired by eBay in 2007 for $310 million.
Armed with the experience of successfully creating, developing and operating media businesses, Bevilacqua was able to identify yet another forthcoming transformation in sports media. Towards the end of the first decade of the 2000's, with over $200 billion of infrastructure investments by cable, satellite and telco companies and massive media industry consolidation well underway, the subscription TV business had grown to a $150billion/year industry. With new platforms built out and consumer behavior demanding content anytime, anyplace, anywhere there was dynamic change and an increasingly competitive environment within the media ecosystem. With the dominant media incumbents focused on protecting the critical subscription TV business, there were many genres of programming being distributed outside of the subscription TV business with the exception of one genre: sports.
With that in mind, Bevilacqua focused on this transition and was able to bring his past experiences into the media advisory business. His efforts began in 2008 and culminated during an 18-month period in 2010-11 whereby he led a slew of critical sports properties into agreements that broke conventional wisdom. First, the record breaking Texas Rangers deal with Fox Sports, which at the time was the largest local rights TV deal in MLB history, more than tripling what the Rangers were previously receiving and clearly setting a new benchmark for future agreements. Second, came the San Diego Padres and their new RSN with Fox Sports, which debuted in the spring of 2012.
Thirdly, Bevilacqua was the architect of the Pac-12 Conference media strategy, including the FOX/ESPN media rights agreements-- the largest and most comprehensive in college sports history at that time. He also quarterbacked the groundbreaking Pac-12 Network (and its six regional sports networks and digital network) agreements with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Brighthouse. The Pac-12 achieved over a 500% increase in their media rights agreements, launched their own media company which it controls 100% equity in, and at the same time altered the landscape of collegiate athletics by igniting the re-alignment by other conferences over the last several years.
Prior to BMC, Bevilacqua served as Chairman and CEO of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Sports Media Ventures, an affiliate of CAA and Evolution Media Capital (EMC), where he served as a media rights advisor for several other sports and entertainment entities including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Tennis Channel, the Big East Conference, the Big 12 Conference, Conference USA, the National Hockey League, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the ION Television Network. Earlier in his career, Bevilacqua worked at Nike as the Director of Global Negotiations and League Affairs and also held key roles at Major League Baseball, The Baseball Network and NBC Sports, where he won a 1988 Emmy for his role in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Bevilacqua is a 1986 graduate of Penn State University where he was also an NCAA All-American wrestler. In 2012 he was elected into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, OK. Bevilacqua resides in Larchmont, NY with his wife Kristen and their four children.
Navigating the College Sports Media Future
The ever-changing sports media landscape has a chronic impact on collegiate athletics, from rights fees to conference realignment to finding your audience, creating a difficult proposition for college conferences. Our panel of sports media experts will look into the future of these challenging times.