Archive for Friday, June 23, 2006

Pac-10 Isn’t Planning to Launch a Network

For years, there has been talk about the saturation of sports on television. But there doesn’t appear to be a cutoff point in sight.

The Big Ten Conference this week announced that it will launch a network, the Big Ten Channel, in August 2007.

There’s already league-owned NBA TV and NFL Network, and the Big Ten Channel will become the first national network owned by a college conference. The Mountain West Conference, in conjunction with CSTV, will launch a network in September, but it is a regional network.

The Big Ten Channel is a joint venture between the conference and Fox’s cable networks. The conference will own 51%, Fox 49%. The conference will supply the content, Fox will operate the network and the two entities will share the costs.

The Big Ten Channel will be televised nationally by DirecTV, which is owned by News Corp., Fox’s parent company. It figures to also be available on most cable systems in the Big Ten area, but probably not on the West Coast.

The question now is, will other major conferences start networks?

Some might, but not the Pacific 10, at least not in the foreseeable future.

We are pretty firm on our new agreements,” Pac-10 associate commissioner Duane Lindberg said Thursday.

The Pac-10 has a football deal with ABC/ESPN that runs through the 2011 season and is in the final negotiations on a separate football deal with FSN. Also, FSN has a basketball deal in place with the Pac-10 that runs through the 2011-12 season.

The Big Ten Channel will carry at least 35 football games, 105 men’s basketball games, 55 women’s basketball games and 170 Olympic events a year.

ABC and the ESPN networks, under a 10-year agreement also announced this week, will continue to televise the Big Ten’s major football and basketball games.

According to Richard Sandomir of the New York Times, that 10-year deal is worth between $90 million and $100 million a year, up from the $60-million annual value of the current contract that runs through the 2006-07 school year.

The new contract, which will run through 2016-17, calls for up to 41 live football telecasts a year and 59 basketball games.

CBS, under an agreement also announced this week, will televise about 25 Big Ten basketball games per season.

When the Big Ten Channel is up and running, ESPN will no longer be able to offer Big Ten telecasts carried by the new channel as part of its GamePlan pay package. So Big Ten alumni in Southern California who count on getting their alma mater’s games on GamePlan probably will be shut out if they don’t have DirecTV.

Bernstein to Resurface

Sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein, formerly of CBS, is close to signing with ABC/ESPN, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Calls to Bernstein and her agent, Babette Perry, were not returned, but the source said Bernstein could be working Sunday night baseball games on ESPN as soon as July 2. She would also work college football games this fall.

An opening was created by the departure of Sam Ryan, who left to sign with New York’s Channel 2 and CBS Sports.

Bernstein, 35, left CBS this year, saying she wanted to pursue other interests.

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