UH could retain PPV football rights in MWC
Apr 06, 2012 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The end of The Mtn. network will likely increase the chances of the University of Hawaii retaining its lucrative pay-per-view football package in the Mountain West Conference.
The MWC confirmed Thursday that its TV rights holder, CBS Sports Network, will pull the plug on The Mtn. on May 31.
The Denver-based Mtn., which debuted Sept. 1, 2006, was the first network devoted exclusively to a single conference. Owned jointly by CBS and NBC Universal/ Comcast and operated by NBC, it reaches about 12 million homes but is not carried by Oceanic Time Warner Cable here. An industry source said The Mtn. had unconfirmed operating losses of as much as $1 million.
Industry observers said it appears the MWC is close to a new deal with CBS Sports Network that will increase national distribution. CBS reaches 45 million homes, according to The Sporting News.
The changes come as the MWC and Conference USA move closer to a merger for the 2013-14 academic year and the MWC is in accelerating discussions with CBS on a new deal in the wake of a new membership lineup, including UH.
UH joins the MWC on July 1 and, as a condition of membership, is contracted to "... turn over its local, regional, national and international television broadcast rights."
The contract also said the MWC "shall make reasonable efforts to negotiate a local area 'carve out' for Hawaii from its national TV broadcast contract."
But the Mtn.'s historical reluctance to relinquish local TV rights and patchwork distribution had been growing bones of contention with MWC members over the years and were factors in Brigham Young's departure last year. The Mtn. was viewed as a major road block to UH continuing to sell a pay-per-view TV package locally that has been worth, on average, approximately $2.5 million per year to the school.
The Mtn.'s impending close gives UH optimism that, depending on negotiations with CBS, the school might retain a significant portion of its local rights. "Based upon conference discussion, I'm hopeful that this is a step towards being able to have some inventory for Hawaii football pay-per-view this year," UH athletic director Jim Donovan said. "This is likely a step in the right direction, but there are probably a few steps needed."
Football, which has had as many as nine games shown on a PPV basis in recent years, makes up both the bulk and most attractive pieces of Oceanic's UH pay-per-view offerings. Annual PPV sales have reached as high as $4.1 million (2008).
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