Monday, August 24, 2009

Conference TV Contract: The MAC

The Mid-American Conference has sat in the shadow of the Big Ten for much of its existence and after achieving a fair amount of success at the beginning of the 2000s, has fallen back in terms of national recognition. Ball St.'s 2008 regular season undefeated run was discounted by a less than stellar set of OOC opponents. The conference has went 2-10 over the last four bowl seasons. But it has upgraded its television contract slightly.

In late January (one day before the commissioner who negotiated the contract stepped down), the MAC negotiated a new eight year contract starting with the 2009 season. The prior contract was a combined contract, like this one, for all MAC sports and generally 7-10 MAC games would air on ESPN/ESPN2 with additional games on ESPNU. The new contract calls for a minimum of eleven MAC games to air on ESPN Networks (six on ESPN/ESPN2, five on ESPNU) with additional games available to be selected by ESPN360. The conference championship game is also available for telecast on ESPN/ESPN2

The MAC has had vast majority of its ESPN/ESPN2 coverage on weeknights, along with some of its ESPNU coverage. A new quirk introduced into the scheduling of MAC games on ESPN is for two games to be scheduled on a weeknight, with the best game provided to the network that has the better coverage, ie (ESPN2 vs. ESPNU or ESPNU vs. ESPN360).

Starting with the 2007 season, the MAC began a package of regional telecasts in conjunction with ESPN Regional Television and that package will continue with the new contract. The package was developed to provide content to many of the local stations in the Big Ten/MAC footprint who lost games when the Big Ten created the Big Ten Network to replace ESPN Regional games.

The MAC has also placed several games for regional telecast on Fox Sports Ohio and Fox Sports Detroit. All other telecast rights revert back to the individual schools to use for local rights packages.

With the exception of the days where ESPN can choose between two weeknight games and place them on multiple ESPN outlets, no weekly selection order exists for the MAC, though ESPN can pick up additional games throughout the year. ESPN generally announces their national telecasts once the MAC releases its schedule for the year. The ESPN Regional games are announced close to mid-June and other telecasts trickle out throughout the summer.

The MAC has also partnered with JumpTV for its web presence and has an online streaming package called All-MACcess where all non-ESPN owned games are streamed live.

For the foreseeable future, the MAC is secure with national telecasts (albeit a rights fee that is rumored to be less than their WAC counterparts and comparable to what C-USA receives from ESPN) and a very solid syndicated package of games reaching the target MAC markets. The conference needs to continue working as individual schools at increasing their local and regional packages. Schools like Buffalo (Time Warner), Bowling Green and Toledo (Buckeye Cable) and Northern Illinois (CSN Chicago) have very strong regional packages, while the Michigan based schools and Ball St. which used to have games on the the Comcast Local regional channel have yet to replace those lost telecasts.

No comments: