Friday, August 26, 2011

Sports Rights & Colleges

It's no surprise that the value of sports rights is increasing, as TV and cable networks around the globe try to lock in exclusive rights in an increasingly competitive programming market.  Rights for college sports, especially the big sports and big programs, are seen as particularly valuable due to their large and dedicated fan bases that can be counted on to tune into live broadcasts.  An article in the Wall Street Journal wonders if this will further the discrepancy between big name programs and the rest of college sports.
Today (Friday, Aug. 26, 2011) will see the launch of the University of Texas Longhorn Network.
The Longhorn Network is predicted to bring the University and its licensing partner an average of $15 million a year for 20 years.  Compare that to the roughly $14.3 million the university will get from its membership in the Big-12, a number that also reflects a deal that U Texas cut to stay in the Big 12 that gives them a larger share of league revenues than most of the other Big 12 schools.  On money alone, that's creating quite a disparity between Texas, and, say, Iowa State.
Texas isn't the only university or conference reaping extreme benefits.  The 12-year deal that the Pac-12 conference signed in May with ESPN and the Fox Sports Media Group is expected to generate an average of $20 million a year for each school. For Washington State University, that's a five-fold increase from last year. WSU AD Bill Moos tied the funds directly to recruiting - "All of us are investing to get in a position to compete with each other for the best athletes."  The increasing conference rights splits are spreading the wealth around a bit - Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports, quipped "More schools are reasonably wealthy ... instead of the top ten schools chasing some player, you have 20 or 30."  But the discrepancy between those 20-30 colleges and universities and the rest of the nearly 350 NCAA Division 1 schools is looking more and more like a chasm.
When you add to that the furor that occurred when the Longhorn Network announced plans to carry a slate of Texas high school football games.  Other schools and the league worried about whether that might give Texas an unfair advantage in recruiting - enough that the Big 12 voted to place a hold on the games, and asked the NCAA to consider a national moratorium of carrying high school sports on college-affiliated networks.  Recently the NCAA responded, ruling that school- and conference-affiliated networks can't air high-school games or other youth programming.

Source - TV Cash Tilts College Playing FieldWall Street Journal

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