CSTV's Starters: DirecTV, No MSOs


College Sports Television is expected to enter the diginet arena tonight (April 7) with DirecTV Inc. as its only multichannel distributor.

Subscribers to the direct-broadcast satellite provider's "Sports Pack" will receive CSTV when it officially tips off around 11:30 p.m. ET, after CBS completes its coverage of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball championship game.

DirecTV has about 11 million direct-broadcast satellite subscribers, but does not disclose counts for its individual tiers. Other terms of the company's multiyear agreement with CSTV were not disclosed.

It's unlikely that any cable operators would strike a deal with CSTV in time for its debut, CEO Brian Bedol acknowledged in a media conference call last week, even though the channel has provided select events to cable since Feb. 23.

Independent CSTV anticipates spending as much as $100 million on its rollout, according to published reports. About $25 million in financing was secured in late February from several sources, including a venture-capital fund created by professional athletes.

Bedol said some agreements would be finalized before month's end.

"These are long-term deals we want to reach, and it takes time to get the exact terms right," Bedol said. "The response has been very strong, in part because we've positioned this channel as distributor-friendly over pricing and packaging ideas."

CSTV is looking for seven-to-10-year deals for digital carriage on cable systems. Negotiations are also ongoing with DBS provider EchoStar Communications Corp.

Initial advertising agreements are expected to be detailed this week, Bedol said.

CSTV will tip off with the 2003 College Hoops Honor Roll, a review of the college-basketball season, complete with awards for the outstanding male and female player. From there, live events involving more than 300 schools — and such sports as baseball, soccer, softball, lacrosse, rugby and volleyball — will make up about one-half of the network's schedule.

Highlights shows, athlete-profile series, radio-show simulcasts and archival action are also on tap. A portion of the schedule will include weekly series covering individual sports — such as Fast Pitch
(baseball), In the Cup
(golf) and On-Track
(track and field) — or individual conferences.