NAB Calls For Free Access to Premier Sporting Events

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The National Association of Broadcasters Tuesday adopted a resolution calling for Americans to continue to receive free access to major televised sporting events, including college football’s Bowl Championship Series games, which will begin airing on ESPN in 2011.

“Broadcasters continue to support the rights of all Americans to have free access to telecasts of major sporting events, particularly those of publicly funded educational institutions," the resolution states. “The NAB Television Board of Directors hereby directs NAB staff to work with policymakers to educate them on the importance of ensuring that no segments of society are disenfranchised from this highly valued programming.”

Last week, ESPN shelled out an estimated $500 million to outbid Fox and other potential network partners for the rights to telecast four of college football’s most important—and lucrative—season-ending bowl games.

The deal will put the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls on the total sports network from January 2011 through January 2014, as well as the BCS championship game in 2011, 2012 and 2013. As such, college football's top games—ESPN also will unveil the weekly BCS standings on Sundays when they begin in mid-season—will migrate to cable from broadcast TV, where they will continue to be televised on Fox through 2010.

The BCS pact, said to be worth some $500 million, followed a Nov. 17 decision by Fox — whose counter offer reached $100 million annually and came to include FX as a home for the three bowl games following ESPN's cable-centric proposal — not to match the ESPN bid.

As is the case with most of ESPN's rights pacts of late, the BCS agreement extends to a variety of properties, including radio, digital, international vehicles, plus the marketing end for the 15 BCS games over the aforementioned time frame.

-- MCN’s Mike Reynolds contributed to this report.

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