The new Big East yesterday formally inked a 12-year, $500M contract with Fox Sports, a “sum that will rise" to $600M if, "as expected, the league expands to 12 members,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The Big East “will provide a lot of basketball for Fox Sports 1, with its regular season and tournament games.” Fox “probably got a bargain.” It “locked up the long-term rights to a new conference, with its storied name and some of its stalwart basketball colleges” for between $40-50M per year, “far less than the huge deals received by the Pac-12 and ACC” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/21). The deal will begin with the ’13-14 academic year. Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Randy Freer said of the agreement, “It does extend to all sports in the conference. We anticipate doing a number of sports including women’s basketball and lacrosse. There are some great baseball teams in the conference and we look forward to determining where we can best highlight these great universities and their great programs” (Fox Sports). In Providence, Kevin McNamara notes the deal would provide “roughly” $40M per year for the 10 schools, while Providence College and the other non-football schools were “pocketing less than” $2M per year from ESPN in recent years. Former Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe “has been hired as a consultant” to the conference. A search firm is “actively looking for candidates to be the Big East's next commissioner.” Georgetown President John DeGioia said that Big East HQs “will be based" in N.Y., although he “did allow that some staff could work from a different locale” (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 3/21). In N.Y., Anthony Sulla-Heffinger writes despite “rumors that the Big East would also look to add Dayton and St. Louis to its ranks, the conference will remain 10 teams through the 2013-14 season at the very least” (N.Y. POST, 3/21).
MOVING MOUNTAINS: ESPN has signed a multiyear deal with the Mountain West Conference that runs through the '19-20 season. Financial details were not released for the new package of games that came from the closing of the conference's channel, the mtn. CBS Sports Network controls the main package of MWC games through an existing deal that also runs through '19-20 and pays the conference about $6M annually. Deal terms have one of ESPN's channels or ESPN3 carrying up to 16 football games, plus every Boise State home game, as well as 31 men's basketball games per year. ESPN has committed to carry at least three Boise State home games on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. The rest of Boise State's home games could be moved to ESPNU or ESPN3. CBS holds the rights to Boise State's in-conference road games. The deal includes "TV Everywhere" components, with games being made available on the WatchESPN app. Last year, ESPN sublicensed four MWC football games from CBS Sports, marking the first MWC games on ESPN since '05 (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
ESPN has “figured out how to get in on the action” during March Madness, with Bill Simmons “offering up commentary during the tournament’s first two days, live, via a YouTube link,” according to Peter Kafka of ALL THINGS DIGITAL. Simmons will “host the video stream from his house, along with a cast of characters from his Grantland universe," including ESPN's Jalen Rose and Grantland writer Rembert Browne. The idea “isn’t to compete with the games themselves, but to offer up pre- and post-game commentary at preset times, along with the option of breaking in live if something merits a pop-in.” Simmons wrote in an e-mail, “We want this to feel like a looser, more irreverent studio show. Like a live podcast where people feel like they are hanging out with us while watching basketball. I have no idea if this will work but we like trying new things at Grantland.” Kafka noted ESPN “isn’t attaching ads to the streams, but I can imagine that if it works out, they might try that down the road.” The shows are to be aired from 11:30-12:15pm ET; 1:30-1:45pm; and 6:10-6:50pm (ALLTHINGSD.com, 3/19).
ESPN finished up the men's college basketball regular season (excluding conference tournaments) with an average of 1.37 million viewers for 135 games, marking the net's best audience ever. That figure tops last season's record-setting viewership of 1.35 million viewers. The audience also is slightly higher than figures from the '10-11 and '09-10 seasons. Louisville was the top market for ESPN telecasts for the 11th straight year with a 4.5 local rating. The Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem market ranked second again with a 3.1 local rating. Meanwhile, CBS saw a slight decline for its men's coverage this season. Also seeing dips were ESPN2 and NBC Sports Network. ESPNU was up slightly for its coverage.
MEN'S NCAA BASKETBALL REGULAR-SEASON VIEWERSHIP
BIG TEN RISING: The two Michigan-Indiana matchups this season ranked as the most-viewed college basketball games on cable and broadcast TV, respectively. ESPN's telecast of the Feb. 2 game drew 4.0 million viewers, marking the most-viewed college basketball game of the season. Big Ten matchups drew the top two spots on ESPN, while taking four of the top five spots on CBS. The Duke-North Carolina telecasts on ESPN saw an audience decline this season. Both matchups ranked in the top five on ESPN last year, while only this year's second telecast cracked the top five. An oddity in the top five for CBS was the Temple-Kansas matchup from Jan. 6. That telecast had the benefit of a strong lead-in game -- the Ravens-Colts AFC Wild Card.
'12-13 MOST-VIEWED NCAA BASKETBALL GAMES ON ESPN
'12-13 MOST-VIEWED NCAA BASKETBALL GAMES ON CBS
Michigan State-Ohio State
NOTE: Figures not available for CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Network.
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer yesterday said he has felt HBO regarded him as an “unwanted stepchild.” In L.A., Lance Pugmire noted Schaefer was referring to HBO's offer in early '12 for a Victor Ortiz fight that eventually landed on Showtime for an offer that a source said "was greater by $300,000." Boxing insiders also have "pointed to Schaefer’s longtime friendship" with Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Stephen Espinoza as "an inside job." Schaefer said that HBO Sports President Ken Hershman "turned his back to him, the pair not speaking since December." Top Rank Chair Bob Arum "praised HBO for its stance" (LATIMES.com, 3/20).
RED BIRD ON A WIRE: In St. Louis, Derrick Goold wrote MLB Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is "out to change youth sports" with his blog on mikematheny.com. Matheny said that he "does plan to continue" the blog during the Cardinals season. The site is "tied to the 'manifesto' he wrote four years ago about how oppressive parents were sapping the fun out of youth sports." Matheny "received permission from the Cardinals to offer his view on things going on with the club" (STLTODAY.com, 3/20).
POOR CHOICE OF WORDS: Former MLB manager Lou Piniella during yesterday's Yankees-Red Sox telecast on YES Network said of the notable offseason trade between the Marlins and the Blue Jays, "I don't want to use the word 'raped,' but they (Toronto) basically took a lot of talent from the Miami Marlins." In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes Piniella "later apologized." A Yankees official said that the organization "stood behind Piniella while recognizing he made a mistake" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/21).
SOUL MAN: In Philadelphia, Vaughn Johnson reported AFL Soul co-Owner Ron Jaworski "gave glowing reviews" to the arena league's new TV deal with CBS Sports Network. But Jaworski also said that the league is "in the negotiating stages of striking more television deals -- namely with Fox and NBC -- and possibly broadcasting more games next season or during the second half of this season." He added that Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia will "carry Soul games locally." Meanwhile, a local radio deal is "still in the works as well, but nothing has been made official" (PHILLY.com, 3/19).