Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Recapping C-USA's Deal With Fox

Conference USA, after a lengthy silence after renegotiating with CBS College Sports and an expectation that an ESPN deal was imminent, surprised many and signed a five year contract with Fox Sports Media Group to televise football & men's and women's basketball.  The new deal, according to media reports, will pay $38 million over the life of the contract and is expected to pay C-USA somewhere around $14.6 million per season when combined with the deal with CBSC.

Fox is paying more than double what ESPN paid in the past ($3.3 million/year), but also is getting double the content. 

Fox has the ability to air games football games on F/X, FSN and nationally on over-the-air Fox affiliates.  ESPN did not have that option.  Fox will also have the rights to the football championship game and can air it on F/X, FSN or Fox. It is also expected to end the practice of Tuesday & Wednesday night football games.  I do expect C-USA to have a presence on Labor Day & Black Friday and there will be Thursday night games.

It is also possible that the televised games will be selected on a 12 day basis.  When FSN carried the conference's football games from '96-'00, it selected most Saturday windows as the season went along.

It does not appear that Fox gained the rights to the men's basketball tournament.  It looks like that stays with CBS College and the title game on CBS.

EDIT: Some media reports have stated that this agreement also includes the men's basketball championship game.

C-USA schools could also see increases in regional coverage as FSN affiliates could take an interest in showing games that are not shown nationally by Fox or CBS College.  The press releases also note that C-USA will be starting a digital network for the streaming of events over the internet.

Overall, C-USA will have a dramatic increase in national exposure in football and a slight uptick in men's basketball next season.  C-USA could have close to half of their games on a national network, which would be more than any other non-AQ conference (sorry MWC fans, the mtn. is regional because you have to pay an extra fee to watch it outside the MWC footprint).

What does this mean regarding the negotiation of Pac-12 and Big 12 rights with FSN?  I'm not sure.  I think that F/X will be a big part of any future negotiation and that FSN will be de-emphasized as more of a syndication network for those conferences.  Fox was aggressive in bidding for the ACC, was the initial leader for the Longhorn Network, is still active in negotiations for a network for Oklahoma, outbid ESPN for the Big Ten Football Championship and is expected to be active in the Pac-12's inaugural title game as it is on the open market.

C-USA Release
Fox Release
What C-USA on FSN looked like in 2000


billmich said...

will fox college sports get any cusa game like they currently do with the big 12 and the pac-10?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I don't think so. I think CBS College Sports retains those games and will keep those. Some could end up regionally on FSN though.

billmich said...

i guess fcs could pick up the regional fsn games, how does fcs get the big 12 and pac 0 games, are they subliscensed from fsn?...seperate deal?

Serge said...

I don't get why Fox wanted to get the rights to C-USA... If they want to become a player in big-time college football, why keep adding games and then subletting the best ones to the competitor you want to tackle (ESPN) and/or the one who wants to tackle you (VS)???

Getting the championship games was a great move, but I think Fox should concentrate on getting the whole Pac-12 package this year, the Big 12 cable package next year and prepare for Big 12 broadcast and Big 10 in 2016...

Matt Sarzyniak said...

@Serge - I think C-USA is the fallback right now. I wonder if they have concerns that they'll only be able to serve as the rights holder to one or the other (Big 12 or Pac-12).

I do agree that they'll concentrate on the Big 12 and Pac-12 going forward, but if they can't open those negotiations, it doesn't hurt to bid on what's available.