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Husky Men's Basketball

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May 4, 2006 at 12:40 PM

Pac-10 and Fox renew TV hoops deal

This may not be popular news with many readers of this board, but the Pac-10 announced today it has renewed its deal with Fox for men’s college basketball games.
Here are some of the particulars from the official press release from Fox:

LOS ANGELES — The Pac-10 Conference and FSN have reached an agreement that renews the sports network’s position as the Conference’s exclusive national basketball television partner through the 2011-2012 season. The announcement was made today by Pac-10 Conference Commissioner Tom Hansen and Bob Thompson, President, Fox Sports Networks.
The renewal provides FSN the exclusive national cable, broadcast and new media rights for men’s regular season basketball, plus four women’s games, the men’s and women’s Conference basketball tournaments, and provides FSN with the exclusive right to sell sponsorships on behalf of the Conference and in connection with the Pac-10 postseason basketball tournaments. In the new media realm, FSN has rights to distribute games live and delayed, during an exclusive 30-day window, including exclusive game replays via video-on-demand, wireless and/or Internet platforms.
In addition to the rights provided FSN and its related new media platforms, the deal gives Fox College Sports (FCS) the right to carry all games and events FSN televises, and gives the national college sports network access to the Pac-10’s extensive library of archived basketball events.
“We’re extremely pleased that Pac-10 Conference basketball will remain a fixture on FSN well into the next decade,” said Thompson. “The conference is important to us and continues to play a vital role in both our national and regional programming, creating a solid core of quality product for FSN, FCS and all of our affiliated regional sports networks, especially, FSN Arizona, FSN Bay Area, FSN Northwest, FSN Prime Ticket and FSN West in Los Angeles.
“The Pac-10 is very pleased to extend for six years its unique relationship with Fox Sports Net, with emphasis on media rights to the Conference’s regular-season men’s basketball games, media and sponsorship rights to its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and marketing the Pac-10 brand for the Conference,” said Hansen. “This agreement expands and extends our relationship with FSN, and we expect both parties to continue to benefit from our association. The Conference will certainly benefit from FSN’s strong presence in the Pac-10’s respective marketplaces.”
Each year, FSN has exclusive rights to 56 regular season men’s basketball games, to be distributed via one or more national over-the-air networks and on FSN, with national or regional coverage. The package also includes exclusive national cable rights to four regular-season women’s games annually, and the weekly magazine show, Runnin’ with the Pac.
FSN also has exclusive rights to all nine games of the men’s Conference tournament. The renewed package also includes the Pac-10 women’s tournament.
“The growth of the Pac-10 tournament has been strong and steady since the Conference brought it back in 2002,” added Thompson. “We look forward to its future, and working with the Pac-10 to realize every bit of its potential.”
“FSN has been instrumental in the success of the Pac-10 men’s tournament and we anticipate that success will continue under our new agreement,” stated Hansen.

Some comments:
First, this isn’t a surprise. Hansen said at the Pac-10 tournament in March this was the way this was headed.
Second, this is sure to inspire a lot of gnashing of teeth by those who want the conference to have a bigger presence on ESPN. That includes many of the conference’s coaches, who don’t like the fact that the Pac-10 doesn’t have a deal with ESPN. Lorenzo Romar diplomatically stays out of the fray on this publicly, but Arizona’s Lute Olson, for one, used about five minutes of a postgame press conference at the Pac-10 tournament two years ago to rip the TV deal and the fact that the conference isn’t on ESPN.
But this is one case where I think the conference gets more criticism than it deserves.
Because the reality is that ESPN doesn’t really want the Pac-10 for basketball.
Even UW athletic director Todd Turner, who has questioned a lot of what the conference has historically done in other areas, admits that ESPN isn’t a huge alternative when it comes to basketball. Turner told me in March that ESPN didn’t present the Pac-10 “with a lot of options” during negotiations.
ESPN would rather have the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, etc. — all conferences in time zones more amenable to getting big ratings, and conferences that have much more devoted fan bases overall.
All I’ve ever heard that ESPN has really offered the Pac-10 is 9 p.m. West Coast time slots for weeknight games. And while I’ve heard that negotiations have never even gotten far enough to really discuss money, word is that the Fox deal overall is for a lot more than ESPN would likely be willing to offer.
Those who rip Hansen for his inability to get the Pac-10 on ESPN for hoops forget that it takes two to tango. Sure, ESPN could put the Pac-10 on midnight EST on Monday nights. But would that be worth throwing away all that Fox has done for the conference, which includes the reinstating of the Pac-10 tournament in 2002, which would not have happened without Fox’s involvement?
The last thing ESPN wants to do is televise every game of the Pac-10 tournament — the way Fox does — when it also has the ACC, Big East and Big Ten tournaments going on.
I’m also not sure how much not being on ESPN really hurts the Pac-10.
UCLA reached the title game this year, Arizona and Stanford have been perennial powers, able to recruit nationally, for years, and Oregon and now Washington have had major success in recent seasons.
The reality now is that Fox and the Pac-10 are married for at least another six seasons, so it’s time to find something new to gripe about
• Interesting to note that the release says nothing about the future locales of the Pac-10 tournament. The Pac-10 has asked Fox to at least consider venues other than the Staples Center, and while odds are the tournament remains in Los Angeles, it is at least being discussed moving it around.

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