CSTV Seeks Other Regional Arenas

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CSTV Networks executives said the programmer will not limit distribution of its planned regional sports networks to traditional linear cable, even as it seeks carriage deals for its fall launch of a Mountain West Conference-based service.

CSTV might seek video-broadband and wireless-platform carriage of content for potential RSN start-ups featuring content from the Atlantic 10 Conference and Conference USA, according to Chris Bevilacqua, president of the newly created CSTV Regional Networks division.

Bevilacqua was the cofounder of CSTV, which was officially acquired by CBS Corp. earlier this month. The deal was first announced in November.

Last week, CSTV acquired multiplatform-distribution rights to Atlantic 10 events in 21 different sports, including football and basketball, from 2006-11.

ESPN also renewed its TV rights through the 2009-10 season, calling for 15 of the conference’s men’s and women’s basketball games to appear on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, including both championship contests.

Much like its Mountain West deal, CSTV’s Conference USA agreement, which was inked last year, encompasses national and satellite-radio, video-on-demand, Internet, broadband and wireless rights for football, basketball, baseball, cross-country, golf, soccer, tennis, track and field, diving, swimming and volleyball.

“While [the Mountain West service] may look like a linear regional sports network [in some markets], it may be something different in another region,” Bevilacqua said.

CSTV already distributes via broadband as many as 125 college-basketball games, largely from small and midsized conferences such as the Midwest-based Horizon League. It also recently reached an accord to stream out-of-market regular-season college-hoops games from the Big East, Big Ten and Southeastern conferences.

“You have to figure out what works best for the affiliates in terms of creating value on their side,” Bevilacqua said. “It’s a discussion that we have to have with our affiliates to see how and where we should distribute the programming.”

As for the Mountain West regional service, Bevilacqua said the “superregional” could reach as many as 20 million subscribers in Colorado, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Texas.

However, he would not say whether operators have to have existing carriage agreements with CSTV before they can receive the RSN. He also would not reveal rate-card specifics for the service, nor would he say if the network has secured any distribution deals to date.

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