You’re going to be seeing a lot more Atlantic 10 Conference basketball in the future.
The league announced Tuesday it has signed a new eight-year television pact (which runs from 2013-14 through 2020-21) with ESPN, NBC Sports and CBS Sports that calls for as many as 71 men’s basketball and 23 women’s basketball games to be broadcast on national television. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the conference’s official press release said the deal, “Provides a significant increase in the Conference’s television rights.”
According to the A-10, this means nearly twice as many men’s contests and 77 percent more women’s games will be shown nationally than in previous years.
It’s great news for VCU, which moved to the A-10 from the Colonial Athletic Association this summer. Had the Rams remained in the CAA, they would be subject to a TV deal that called for a minimum of 12 league games to be carried on NBC Sports Network, but not much more than that. I’m not trying to be critical of the CAA, which was great for VCU for 17 years, but that’s an enormous difference.
One of the main reasons VCU moved to the A-10 was to showcase itself as a national brand. That’s going to be a lot easier moving forward in the A-10 than it would have been in the CAA. If the A-10 TV contract was Usain Bolt, the CAA deal would be Kevin James.
This could play a major role in recruiting for the entire league. Of the questions basketball coaches are asked by recruits most often, “Will my family be able to watch me play?” and “How much will we be on TV?” are either at or near the top of the list. This contract goes a long way towards answering those questions with a resounding “Yes”.
During Jeff Capel’s final season at VCU in 2005-06, the men’s basketball team was on TV nine times TOTAL, all year. That included two games on ESPN Networks, six under the Comcast umbrella and one broadcast that UNC Wilmington produced out of a renovated bread truck (not kidding). Last year, including ESPN3 games, the Rams were on TV 33 times. This new contract will only build on that progress.
It should be noted that this eight-year pact does not include regional television deals. Those will be worked out by the A-10 and member institutions later.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the contract:
ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU (15 MBB/3 WBB): The Worldwide Leader will carry 14 regular season men’s basketball games, plus the league championship game. The last three years, ESPN has held the rights to the A-10 Men’s Basketball Championship Game, but chose to sublicense it CBS. It is unclear if ESPN will continue in this manner or if it will broadcast the game.
CBS Sports Network (27 MBB/10 WBB): CBS Sports Network will air 25 regular season men’s and eight women’s games, plus the A-10 Tournament Semifinals. Former Virginia Coach Pete Gillen, working for the network during a tournament in Cancun in 2007, once said he wanted to put Joey Rodriguez on a bagel, or something like that. I have no idea what it means, but I hope there’s more of that in our future.
NBC Sports Network (25*/6*WBB): The artist formerly known as Versus will broadcast 25 men’s and six women’s games on national TV. NBC will also air the A-10 Tournament Quarterfinals on regional networks. For VCU, this means Comcast, which merged with NBC last year. NBC has the option of airing the quarterfinal games nationally on NBC Sports Network.
Another provision of the contract that will undoubtedly benefit the league is the retention of the rights to its unsold inventory. That includes digital rights. The Atlantic 10’s previous contract with CBS (which I’m told was tweaked this year) gave the network the rights to all of its games, whether they chose to broadcast them or not. That meant if the A-10 or a school wanted to sign a regional or local TV agreement, it would have to buy the game from CBS, then hope to make that money back through advertising. This also frees up the A-10 to better market itself digitally.
All in all, this appears to be a great contract for both the A-10 and VCU. Get ready, Rams fans, you’re going to be seeing a lot of VCU Basketball the next eight years, whether you’re courtside at the Verizon Wireless Arena or in Nome, Alaska (I have no idea what the cable situation is in Nome, so forgive me if they can’t watch Ice Road Truckers up there).