Friday, May 11, 2018

Navy, AAC & CBS Sports Carve Out Unique Rights Agreement

When Navy moved to the American Athletic Conference as a football-only member, it did so while an existing contract was in place with CBS Sports Network to televise football games, with the exception of Army-Navy and their "home" game vs. Notre Dame.

Over that time, I admit that as I was under the impression that Navy's rights would then revert to the existing television contract the conference has with ESPN, but over this winter I was corrected on that stance and that the conference had retained those rights.  From there, the conference, Navy, CBS Sports and current primary rightsholder ESPN came to a new agreement on how to divide up Navy's football rights.

Note that Army-Navy is covered under a separate agreement that ends after the 2028 game.  That deal also included the matchup(s) in basketball.

From here, I'm going to ask you to read Bill Wagner's report from the Capital Gazette because he gets direct quotes on the agreement & negotiations from American Athletic commissioner Mike Aresco & Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk.

To summarize what Bill unearthed:
  • One Navy home game each season, plus the "home" game vs. Notre Dame in even numbered seasons, will be available to the primary rightsholder.  This provides some value to the American's future rights agreement with four Notre Dame games available to the conference for the length of this agreement.
  • All other home games will be on CBS Sports Network.
  • Navy had a strong desire to keep all of their football home games on Saturdays, which CBS was amenable to.
A source clarified that the primary rightsholder will not have access to Navy home games until 2020, which would be the first year of any new rights agreements.  CBS Sports Network would have all home games until then.  CBS also has exercised the option to carry the game vs. Notre Dame from San Diego.

From the press release, there are a few subtle items that may be noteworthy:
  • At the end of the first paragraph: "As part of the agreement, CBS Sports Network will continue to televise the majority of Navy home football games, including the Air Force at Navy game."

    Since Navy's out-of-conference schedule is fairly rigid with games vs. Army, Air Force & Notre Dame on an annual basis*, if CBSSN retains the Air Force game, that would seem to indicate that the primary rightsholder will get the top choice of Navy's AAC home games.

    *2018 has Navy playing 13 regular season games due to a road game at Hawai'i, so they have two other non-conference games instead of just one.
  • "The network also will televise additional select Navy home athletic events, including basketball, baseball and lacrosse games."

    Right now, I believe these events are covered through the Patriot League's agreement with CBS Sports Network.  I do not know if this statement is referring to that agreement, or if Navy was allowed to place specific events on the network outside of any agreements the Patriot League has.  As mentioned early, at least one Army-Navy matchup in basketball is covered as part of the agreement for the football game.
  • The length of the agreement is ten years, but the first two years run alongside the final two years of the American's rights agreement with ESPN.  Does this signal that the length of the American's upcoming rights agreement, potentially with ESPN based on the Capital Gazette article, will be eight years to line up the two agreements? 

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