CSTV Lands Major Conference Deal


College Sports Television scored a major content coup Thursday, wrestling multimedia college-sports rights for the Mountain West Conference from juggernaut ESPN.

The seven-year, $82 million deal, which begins in 2006, includes exclusive rights to the conference’s basketball and football games, as well as other sporting events.

The deal marks CSTV’s first deal with a major Division I conference that includes marquee football and basketball games.

The conference includes such colleges as the United States Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, Colorado State University, University of New Mexico, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, San Diego State University, University of Utah, University of Wyoming and, beginning next season, Texas Christian University.

The exclusive agreement incorporates all conference-related media and marketing rights, including television, national over-the-air, satellite radio, video-on-demand, online, broadband and exclusive corporate-sponsorship rights.

For one-year-old CSTV, which has 7 million subscribers, the deal is expected to provide a tremendous boost. President Brian Bedol said MWC fans will be able to access conference sports events and information through a variety of distribution outlets.

“We’re extremely confident that we will have the distribution through a variety of platforms to be able to reach more people than ever,” Bedol said. “We will offer MWC sports fans more games from more sports than ever before."

The deal is nearly double the conference’s seven-year, $48 million agreement with ESPN.

Along with the additional money, the conference will receive greater exposure for its football and basketball games than the guaranteed nine football and 12 basketball conference exposures offered in the ESPN deal.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson expressed discontent with the limited exposure ESPN provided live conference games.

And MWC board of directors president Cecil Samuelson said the conference was also troubled by the late midnight EST time slot ESPN gave conference college-basketball games during its “Big Monday” and the inconsistent schedule afforded its college-football telecasts.

“Because of the partnership, we see a tremendous upside not only through the marketing and exposure of the games, but the potential for additional financial resources that were not available to us in our other contract,” Samuelson said.

For ESPN's part, the network said it didn’t agree with the conference on the "value of the product” and chose not to renew the deal.

“Given our overall inventory of college football and college basketball, we chose to decline the offer. Because it’s a competitive environment, they pursued a different home, and we wish them well,” an ESPN spokesman said.