Fox Inks Rights To New Pac 12 Championship Football Game

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With its second deal in as many days, Fox Sports has fortified its college sports roster.
The programmer tackled a deal for the Pac 12 Conference (nee the Pac 10) calling for the broadcast network to televise its inaugural championship game, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 3, as well as sponsorship rights.
Moreover, Fox Sports Net added another six conference football games in 2011 and 10 men's hoops contests during the 2011-12 campaign, which reflect the addition of new conference members Utah and Colorado.
Together, the packages are valued at a reported $25 million, $14.5 million of which is tied to the Pac 12 title tilt.
That gives Fox, which lost out on the bidding to retain the Bowl Championship Series college football games to ESPN last year, three conference title games. Fox, a partner in the Big Ten Network, has secured the rights to televise the new Big Ten Conference championship football game from 2011-16. Moreover, through the pact FSN announced with Conference USA on Jan. 5, Fox or FX will have the right to televise that circuit's championship pigskin matchup.

"Fox has enjoyed a successful and mutually beneficial relationship with the Pac-10 for many years," Fox Sports President Eric Shanks said in a statement. "It's an honor to have the first-ever Pac-12 championship football game on Fox and available to the widest possible audience. We're excited to take our relationship with the Pac-12 to an entirely new level."
Whether it will extend to another level past that remains to be seen -- the Pac12 has explored the possibility of launching a network of its own in 2012, with Fox, ESPN and Comcast being mentioned as potential partners.
The Pac 12 pacts come hard on the cleats of FSN's five-year TV deal with Conference USA , which picks up and expands on the six-year pact with ESPN that expires this spring. Under the FSN agreement, FSN will televise 20 college football games -- versus 10 under ESPN -- 10 regular season men's basketball games, five women's basketball games and some Olympic sports.
As mentioned above, FSN, whose owned-and-affiliated RSNs reach some 85 million U.S. homes, has collected the rights for the conference's football championship game, plus the men's and women's basketball championship games, and can transfer select events to either Fox or the 98-million home FX.
The football games will air mostly on Saturdays, with some slated for Thursday nights. Under ESPN's watch, Conference USA games often ran on Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday nights, because of its extensive ties and commitments to other more high-profile conferences.

The conference's footprint is concentrated in nine states with 12 member schools: East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCF and UTEP. That territory is served by nine Fox RSNs -- Fox Sports South, SportSouth, Fox Sports Carolinas, Fox Sports Tennessee, Fox Sports Southwest, Fox Sports Houston, Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Florida and Sun Sports.

"Both parties will reap the benefits of this agreement," said Fox Sports Networks president Randy Freer in a statement. "Not only can Fox provide extensive national TV exposure for the conference through a variety of outlets, but we can also serve the Conference's member schools and local fans through our strong regional presence. An RSN like Fox Sports Houston is a natural fit to distribute Rice and Houston games, while SMU, UTEP, and Tulane are located in Fox Sports Southwest's footprint. We'll have tremendous programming opportunities to explore, especially with cross-over match-ups with our other conference rights."
Last July, CBS College Sports Network extended a more comprehensive TV rights and new media deal with Conference USA, encompassing football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and 16 other sports, including regular season and championship coverage, through 2016. The parties' current multiyear pact expires upon the conclusion of the 2010-11 academic year.

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