Sunday, September 6, 2009

Conference TV Contract: The Sun Belt

The Sun Belt is the youngest D-I football conference, beginning play in 2001 as a response to the Big West dropping sponsorship of football. Several schools played in the Big West as football only members and the Sun Belt made sense as a new home.

The Sun Belt has a three year contract with ESPN, starting with the 2009 serason. It provides for at least two televised games per year on ESPN/ESPN2. The contract requests that the conference provides these games at ESPN's request and that they may be weeknight games. A new component not available in the original ESPN contract was for games to appear on ESPNU on Saturdays and that the Sun Belt would be available to provide games on a 12 day basis.

ESPN Regional has the right to select up to five Sun Belt games per year as well. Previously ESPN Regional was the primary regional rightsholder for the conference. That now appears to below to a pair of regional sports networks. Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports TV (CST) jointly own the regional rights, calling the broadcasts the Sun Belt Network. The Sun Belt Network games are part of a larger, all-sports contract that these two entities run.

Any games not selected for TV revert back to the schools to sell. Some schools do sell some non-conference games to local stations and can also choose games during the year. Many schools partner up with their website host to stream home games.

The Sun Belt has gradually improved as a conference and are taking steps to get more games on campus and play fewer money games. By doing this, they can get more fans in the stands and get more opportunities for national television. Also, by not locking themselves into longer term deals, they can quickly react to the marketplace and strike the best deal.

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