ESPN Lands Rights to Most Major College Bowl Games

Nov 17, 2008  •  Post A Comment

ESPN has outbid Fox for the rights to most of the major end-of-season college bowl games,b including the BCS Championship game.
The $500 million, four-year deal puts the football games on cable for the first time. College football becomes one of the few major sports to have its championship decided on a channel that all television households do not receive.
Fox said Monday that it declined to match ESPN’s offer.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said Disney’s ESPN’s $500 million offer topped Fox’s $400 million bid. Fox is paying $330 million under a four-year deal that expires in 2011. It continues to hold the rights to the Cotton Bowl.
“Even with today’s vast economic uncertainties, Fox Sports made a very competitive bid to keep broadcasting BCS games free to every home in America, one that included a substantial rights fee increase, and certainly as much as any over-the-air network could responsibly risk,” Fox said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the university presidents and BCS commissioners were not satisfied and they’ve decided to take their jewel events to pay television. We wish everyone well.”
ESPN, which sources said got the word from the BCS earlier Monday, said in a statement, “We are not commenting about a potential BCS agreement. However, we remind everyone that ESPN is distributed on expanded basic, a product enjoyed by 98 million homes that offers the best entertainment buy in America and that already carries many championship-caliber sports events. ESPN is not a niche, pay TV service.”
It remains to be seen what kind of effect putting the games on cable will have. When most professional football games televised on cable, local stations in the teams’ home markets carry the game so viewers without cable can watch. It is not clear if that arrangement is part of ESPN’s deal with the BCS.
Even that may not be enough to satisfy some in the U.S. Congress. There have been complaints about the NFL Network carrying New England Patriots games last season and this season despite the local carriage rules because NFL Network is not received by most cable subscribers.
In other sports, such as basketball and baseball, some playoff games are carried exclusively on cable, but the finals remain on broadcast television.


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