By Iliana Limón Romero | Orlando Sentinel
3:14 PM EDT, August 13, 2012
The Big East has made its first big move toward locking down a major television contract that would help the league fund its new coast-to-coast lineup.
The league has hired Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, a national leader in sports media business, to be the lead negotiator in upcoming television negotiations, interim commissioner Joe Bailey announced Monday.
Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, led by co-founder Chris Bevilacqua, has negotiated contracts for college conferences, Major League Baseball teams and the other professional leagues and has created 24-hour college sports networks.
“If one believes that past performance is the best predictor of future performance, we have tremendous confidence in our selection of Chris Bevilacqua to be our lead negotiator,” Bailey said in a Big East news release.
The pressure is on the Big East to make the most of favorable competitive television market conditions and broker a multi-million media rights agreement.
CBSSports.com reported Big East university presidents forced former commissioner John Marinatto to turn down a $1.4 billion television and multimedia rights contract extension with ESPN, which helped speed the departure of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, TCU and West Virginia.
The Big East's television rights contract with ESPN expires in June 2013. The conference goes into an exclusive negotiating period with ESPN in September 2012, then it can field formal offers from other networks.
Despite instability among its members and the termination of Marinatto, Big East leaders suggest the television network attention shows the league still has the ability to land a lucrative contract that justifies a reformed lineup stretching from California to Connecticut.
Western teams Boise State and San Diego State signed on to join the league as new football-only members in 2013, in part, because of the elevated national platform and opportunity to rake in more TV revenue.
Representatives from NBC and Fox Sports networks outlined the value they see in the Big East during spring meetings Ponte Vedra Beach, noting the league will have teams in 13 of the top 50 media markets spanning four time zones in 2013. Once newcomers UCF, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple, San Diego State and Boise State all join the league, the Big East will represent nearly 32 million television households -- twice as many as other conference in the country.
NBC and Fox are trying to expand their college sports lineup and the unprecedented competition for live events could drive up the value of the Big East's new TV deal.
The Big East's current ESPN contract precluded the networks from discussing how much they were willing to pay for media rights, but athletic directors, football coaches and basketball coaches said it was clear the networks see value in the reformed Big East.
Bevilacqua led the media negotiations for the Rose Bowl Game earlier this year and the Pac-12 Conference in 2011. The Pac-12 will be launching its own 24-hour network later this week.
Prior to forming Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures with his partner, industry veteran Adam Helfant, Bevilacqua was the chairman and chief executive officer of CAA (Creative Artists Agency) Sports Media Ventures. Bevilacqua was the founder of CSTV, the first 24-hour cable television network dedicated to college and amateur sports. CSTV was purchased by CBS and now known as the CBS Sports Network.
“We are thrilled to be working with the Big East Conference during one of the most dynamic times in the history of the media industry,” Bevilacqua said in a news release. “The Big East has some of the most recognizable brand names and highly rated programming within intercollegiate athletics, both of which are at a premium these days.”
Evolution Media Capital (EMC) will be assisting Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures with the negotiations.
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