ESPN, BCS Deal Includes Rights To Simulcast Bowl Games On, ESPN Mobile TV


For most of the sports-viewing world, the big news in the deal announced today between ESPN (NYSE: DIS) and the Bowl Championship Series is the price tag — an estimated $500 million — and the apparently inexorable move of major sports from free over-the-air broadcast to subscription-supported cable. But, as we suggested here yesterday, it includes some digital news as well: the package of exclusive TV, radio, digital, international and marketing rights from 2011 through 2014 covers broadband and mobile simulcasts.

The digital media component includes:

— the right to simulcast the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and National Championship Game on broadband service and through ESPN Mobile TV. Translation: ESPN isn’t locked into providing the games that way but can.

— “significant content rights” for, which will take over operation of the official BCS site now managed by Fox Sports.

— ESPN VOD will distribute archived games through audio and video podcasts, in addition to affiliate VOD platforms. ESPN/ABC Sports sold condensed iTunes downloads of BCS games for $1.99 in 2006; the thrilling Texas-USC championship helped sell nearly 100,000 15-minute condensed videos in less than a week.

I have a query out on whether digital rights are included for international and will update when that answer comes in.

Update: An ESPN spokesman says the network has the same broad digital rights internationally as it does in the U.S.



ESPN360 streaming the BCS is very important for two reasons: they offer free streaming to .edus and the military. If thousands of college students and ROTC'ers in the military can't access their games over the ESPN network, watching ESPN ads, there will be tremendous backlash. Most likely they will just pirate the stream and ESPN loses the ability to sell to those eyeballs. (If you look at some of the viewing numbers for pirate ustreams and similar streams of the TBS MLB LCS and LDS games, they were in the mid five figures at the time.) ESPN360 allows ESPN to program those local cable insert slots with their own commercials, thus making them more money. Also for the growing number of people who are ditching cable because of cost, but keeping their phone company DSL, this keeps them in the loop because they have deals with two of the big three Baby bells, serving three quarters of the country.

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