Big East, ESPN Continue TV Rights Negotiations; Exclusive Window Expires Oct. 31
Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said that he is “optimistic about hammering out an extension with ESPN on broadcasting rights,” according to Steven Marcus of NEWSDAY. ESPN's “exclusive negotiating window with the Big East ends Oct. 31.” But ESPN Senior VP/College Programming Burke Magnus said that the window “is just ‘a procedural thing.’” Aresco said, “Talks have been good and constructive. We're nearing the end of the negotiating period, but we're optimistic about getting something done. They value our product immensely, we value them. We're continuing to talk. We'll see." However, Aresco would “not rule out looking elsewhere.” Aresco: "If something else develops, we'll see. We have a lot of interest from other networks and you would expect that because our product is so good and so plentiful.” Aresco said of potentially forming a Big East network as an adjunct to a new rights deal, "We never rule out anything. Is that a possibility down the road? It is, but again we are talking to ESPN now." Magnus said that the “loss of Pitt and Syracuse did not devalue the Big East” (NEWSDAY, 10/18). Meanwhile, SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Smith & Ourand report the Big East is “not expecting to cut a deal with ESPN during its exclusive negotiating period and will take its media rights to the open market after its window with ESPN closes.” But that “does not mean ESPN is out of the running.” One of the Big East’s “most valuable properties is its men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.” Sources said that the conference is “attempting to leverage that tournament as much as it can to drive up the value of the overall package.” But ESPN, because of its “desire to keep rights to a tournament that it has carried for more than three decades, is still expected to maintain a portion of the Big East package.” Fox, NBC Sports and CBS Sports are also “expected to talk to the conference when ESPN’s window closes.” Sources said that the conference is “almost certain to split its package among two or more networks.” The Big East also is “planning to reach out to nontraditional media companies such as Apple, Google and Netflix to gauge their interest in acquiring live sports rights” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/15 issue).