WVU issues RFP for third-tier media rights
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 01:06
West Virginia University has issued a Request for Proposals for its third-tier athletic media rights.
And it could mean a big payday is in the University’s future.
The current third-tier media provider is the Mountaineer Sports Network, which is owned by the University. Deputy Athletic Director Mike Parsons oversees the network. It focuses on audio, digital and video rights.
It is rare, though, for Universities to operate as its own provider.
But with signing a third-tier media rights partner, also comes sacrifice. West Virginia will be giving up its rights to a significant amount of assets it currently controls.
The RFP, which was obtained by The Daily Athenaeum, lists a wide variety of the different assets available by WVU. West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck declined to comment about the RFP Tuesday afternoon.
The RFP lists marketing rights, on premise signage, event marketing rights, tickets, video (TV) content rights, audio (radio) content rights, print rights, and digital rights as assets.
It’s signage and event-marketing rights, currently operated in-house by two full-time staff members, could be outsourced. In addition to marketing rights, ticketing rights are also listed in the RFP. The WVU ticketing department employs a staff of six.
Companies such as Learfield and IMG College have taken over the college media and marketing landscape. IMG works with more than 80 schools, while Learfield works with 50 schools as well as the Big Ten, Western Athletic and Missouri Valley Conferences.
Learfield signed a deal earlier this year with the University of Wisconsin that would net it $52.5 million dollars through 2019. N.C. State signed a 10-year, $49 million deal earlier this year with Learfield. In 2009, The University of Georgia signed an eight-year agreement with IMG College (formerly known as ISP Sports) valued at $92.8 million.
"We’re going to look at it and see what the market says about that," said Athletic Director Oliver Luck following a Coaches Caravan last month. "It’s one of those things that as financial stewards of the University, we’re really obligated to see what the marketplace says to us about our third-tier rights."
West Virginia, however, still could go with the option of keeping the Mountaineer Sports Network for digital rights and going after a partner such as Comcast or Root Sports for third-tier television rights. Or it could simply outsource radio or marketing rights.
Big 12 member Iowa State will launch Cyclone.tv this fall as its new digital network. The subscription-based service will show football games, as well as non-revenue sports. Kansas State did the same thing last year with it’s own digital network, K-StateHD.TV
Four Big 12 schools currently work with IMG in come capacity, while five (including Iowa State and Kansas State) use Learfield.
The changing landscape of college athletics, as well as the recent move to the Big 12 Conference could make West Virginia a more valuable commodity for third-tier rights than it has been in the past.
In 2009, the WVU Board of Governors questioned how revenue gained through MSN compared to other Universities across the nation. At the time, Parsons said the athletic department was able to bring in roughly $2.8 million from MSN.
"West Virginia is not your typical media marketplace," Parsons said to the BOG in 2009. "From our perspective, we do quite well for the 1.8 million people we have in our [state] population."