ESPN, CSTV Suit Up with C-USA


ESPN and College Sports Television have inked new TV-rights deals with Conference USA.

Through the deals -- which begin next fall and extend until spring 2011 -- ESPN and ESPN2 will air at least 10 regular-season C-USA football games each year, including weeknight windows, as well as the circuit’s new pigskin championship tilt.

As for hoops, the networks will air six men’s and three women’s games, including the championship contests.

The sports giant will also hold the rights to that content across such platforms as wireless, broadband, interactive, pay-per-view, video-on-demand, Web, high-definition and Spanish-language service ESPN Deportes.

Deal terms were not disclosed, although the agreement superceded an eight-year pact that was signed in 2001.

For its part, CSTV has gained the rights to the balance of C-USA’s football and basketball games. Cofounder and executive vice president Chris Bevilacqua said CSTV would have rights to about 75 football games, and it has plans for 15 national exposures.

The balance of the football games could be made available regionally through syndication packages with over-the-air stations, as well as other cable or satellite distributors, CSTV CEO Brian Bedol said.

Beyond the two big college sports, CSTV has also secured the rights to regular, postseason and championship events for C-USA baseball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis and track and field.

Subbing softball for baseball, CSTV will cover those sports for women, along with basketball, diving, swimming and volleyball. The network will also present an array of Olympic Games sports.

The agreement, terms of which were not disclosed, also gives CSTV C-USA rights for national and satellite radio, VOD, Internet, broadband and wireless vehicles, as well as for marketing and sponsorship sales.

On the conference call announcing the TV deals, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said none of the circuit’s action would be available to ESPN U, the college network ESPN plans to launch March 4.