Following Wednesday’s report by the Sports Business Daily that West Virginia University has reached a third-tier multimedia rights deal with IMG College, here’s a glimpse at the potential scope of the agreement and what it likely means to Mountaineers fans.

First, to define what this third-tier rights package entails:

• Television rights to one football game per season and a handful of men’s basketball games that are picked over by the major networks

• Complete radio broadcast rights

• Coaches’ shows produced for television, radio and web streaming

• Television rights to all other WVU sports (the ones lovingly categorized as non-revenue).

• Rights to sell advertising signage and sponsorships

• Online content.

Now, a deeper, speculative look at the agreement, which is pending as IMG and West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck (and, no doubt, a gaggle of attorneys) attend to the final details:

Who were the other bidders?
Already partnering with more than 60 schools and three conferences, IMG College is one of the industry’s behemoths, alongside Learfield Sports (51 schools, two conferences), which also contended for the WVU rights package. Within the Big 12 Conference, IMG partners with Texas, Kansas, Baylor and TCU, while Learfield owns deals with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Iowa State.

Other companies submitting bids for the WVU package included Nelligan Sports (32 schools), CBS Collegiate Sports Properties (seven schools), Fox Sports Net, Front Row Marketing (eight schools, the NHL’s Flyers, the MLS’ Philadelphia Union and six minor-league franchises), Legends Sales and Marketing (a New York Yankees-Dallas Cowboys co-owned venture), XOS Digital and West Virginia Radio Corp. (owner of MetroNews and the company that historically has produced the radio broadcasts for WVU football and men’s and women’s basketball).

What is the deal worth?
The university has yet to disclose the terms — and with final negotiations ongoing, some inventory of rights (signage, ticketing, digital) could be retained by the school. But sources have estimated IMG will pay WVU anywhere from $75 million to a whopping $120 million over 12 years.

In 2009, IMG guaranteed Ohio State $110 million over 10 years, but in 2012 Learfield signed two deals that may prove more relevant: a 10-year contract with N.C. State worth $49 million, and a seven-year deal with Wisconsin that pays $52.5 million.

Note, however, that a superficial comparison of these deals is risky, because contracts vary from school to school based upon the depth of rights included in the package. Some agreements even include infrastructure pieces such as video boards for football, baseball or soccer stadiums.

What becomes of the on-air talent?
The most public aspect of this agreement involves who’ll emerge as the voice of WVU football and basketball. That’s a role Tony Caridi has filled the past 15 years, and he’s currently in his 27th year overall with the school-owned Mountaineer Sports Network. He hosts the weekly in-season call-in shows for Dana Holgorsen and Bob Huggins, and occasionally emcees events tied to the athletic department.

While IMG could stipulate that it brings in its own broadcasters, the company typically favors retaining longtime play-by-play announcers who have forged an identity with a school’s brand.

Why partner with a company such as IMG in the first place?
College athletic programs have been outsourcing various aspects of marketing and multimedia rights for the past two decades. In fact, West Virginia and Michigan State are the last two major-college holdouts when it comes to auctioning off these lucrative assets. Of course, it’s only lucrative if the revenue from selling these rights exceeds what the university would have derived from continuing to manage them in-house.

For years, key members of the WVU athletics department felt they could grow healthy revenue streams while serving as the best stewards of the university’s branding and marketing, and even now, there remains some risk in how an outside firm like IMG will be received within the state. Of course, once the deal is signed, it’s up to IMG to make a return on its financial investment.

“This works from a revenue standpoint at programs all over the country, so it’s not all bad,” an industry source told MetroNews.

How could IMG change the relationship between WVU and advertisers?
The source said “if anyone was going to overpay for WVU, it would be IMG because they already had the Pitt and Marshall properties,” which are believed to be underperforming (especially in Marshall’s case). That portends a touchy scenario whereby IMG could squeeze WVU sponsors to help subsidize Marshall by bundling advertising packages.

“IMG could say, ‘You want the Mountaineers? Then you’re going to have buy Marshall as well,’” the source said. “I promise you, IMG will hold some people hostage to get more money for Marshall.”

It’s hard to imagine that sales pitch playing well with business owners who are gold-and-blue through and through.

The source said most of the state’s six-figure advertisers are already aligned with WVU, meaning IMG’s sales staff will need to target more smaller companies willing to spend $20,000 and $40,000 annually. “They are going to have to hit a lot of singles and doubles to hit that number, and they’re going to have to do that in a state where there’s not a lot of business.”

Regardless of how much IMG agrees to pay WVU — recalling once more that $75 million or $120 million range mentioned by sources earlier — advertisers who want to renew their sponsorships of the Mountaineers can likely expect to pay more.

“(IMG) will assume right away that the prices WVU has been charging are too low, so they’ll jack up the rates,” the source said. “In that case you might lose some sponsors who are faced with a 15- to 18-percent increase with no new inventory.

“It’s a question of how hard-line IMG will be.”

What else will fans notice?

With IMG aggressively chasing revenue, expect more advertising signage throughout Milan Puskar Stadium and the concourses of the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers in-house marketing team previously sought to minimize advertising clutter, but in the coming months, with every inch of property available for sponsorship, how long before the urinals feature a Target logo?

Sponsorships also could infiltrate the radio broadcast and the public address system, with every third-down conversion leading to a “United Bank FIRST DOWN!” or every trip inside the 20 meaning the Mountaineers have entered “the Coca-Cola RED ZONE!”

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Comments

  • Mark Bailey

    This move was needed and overdue. The article even points out WVU and Michigan State were the only 2 schools still producing their own product. Also, if you were IMG and just signed onto a contract that will require a lot of work to be profitable, the last thing you want is to anger the fan base by releasing a long time announcer like Caridi. Only issue may be wether Toni is ok with his new management.
    Bottom line is this is a good long term move by the AD.

  • Protechcpa

    Simply the next step in the "sale" of WVU Mountaineer athletics. Some call this progress. Maybe. With all these "upgrades", Luck will no longer be satisfied with those same old, shabby fans. They will all be replaced in time. With more affluent fans, those that are more representative of the new WVU. That will finally close the "sale".

    • luck sucks

      sooo tired of oliver luck and his ideas all the bb games starting at 9pm is crazy the travel the whole big 12 was a mistake that will be seen in time ty oliver

  • Uncle Fester

    This is good if they can bring some on-air talent for the games. Caridi is too full of himself and oozes arrogance. It won't be hard to replace him. Coach Wallace is just downright boring in football. Jay Jacobs isn't any good either in basketball. So, lots of room for improvement in the broadcast booths. Anyway, Caridi isn't even a WVU grad or even a West Virginian. He went to Syracuse. He's a New Yorker. A New Yorker. He isn't even "one of us". We can live on without TC.

    • MNTN33R

      Pure ignorance.

      Tony was at Syracuse less than two years. He's been at WVU for 27.

    • Kimball

      Uncle Fester, you are a MORON!!!

    • Mark

      Don Nehlen is from Ohio, I guess they shouldn't have hired him either.

    • Dan1658

      Yes and those professionals from Fox and ESPN think that WVU is in the State of Virginia not West Virginia.

  • Chuck

    They will keep Tc. IMg did not change Marshall or Pitts announcers when rights were purchased. This will not affect fans one bit. Se deal every other college has. Chill people. The only bad news is we now know IMg will use wvu to pay for mu

  • J-Rizzle

    Sir Ollie has not been afraid to make major changes that cannot be reversed from day one. This is another that we just have to hope works out. This is life in college sports these days. It is a business, whether we like it or not. Would love to hear Ollie explain or at least take some questions on some of this. I don't think a strong leader necessarily does everything as a vote, but feedback is priceless. Big changes with little or no explanation leads to dissent within the ranks. If Ollie wants to keep this money printing factory running, he needs to explain the 'whys' a little more often. He is ultimately still an player of a public institution. With great trust comes great accountability. I hope that the university will hold him accountable for success with these decisions. No matter the results, positive or negative, one man will be responsible. He will be a hero, or the man that destroyed WVU sports.

  • Matthew

    If they get rid of Caridi they are stupid. Tony could make a lot more money in other places as an announcer but he loves West Virginia. He is well respected among national broadcasters also.
    Oliver Luck just wants to self promote. Am I the only one who remembers when he lost the election against Mollohan and then retreated back to Texas? He is just using the good people of West Virginia.

    • Mark

      Luck lost to Harley Staggers,not Alan Mollohan.

  • In da stickes

    If you aren't progressing, you are falling behind. Expect more change and grow to accept it. Once the revenue streams hit full stride, expect the Mountaineers to pick up in recruiting and ulitimately finding more success on the playing fields. Cannot say I'm in love with all this, but it is our new normal.

  • STEVE DAVIS

    As Mr. Luck very openly and honestly says, "Yes, it's about money." There are no surprises here. Mr. Luck is taking us exactly where he told us he was taking us. The powers that be are paying absolutely no attention to what the fans want. The assumption is that West Virginians were ashamed of the mountaineers and wanted something bigger and better. Case in point, Andrew was too good for WVU. Think about it.
    Steve

    • Rick

      Steve..... Stanford vs WVU. Are you serious?

    • Caleb

      Andrew was recruited when Rich Rod was in town.... Andrew wasn't going to a run first QB O. If Dana were around when Andrew was being recruited, he may have been a Mountaineer.

      Championships aren't cheap. You can either hold onto your old school, close minded thoughts and continue to grasp for meritocracy or you can do what it takes to win. As a lifelong West Virginian and 2 time WVU grad, I say bring in more money, build bigger/better facilities, and recruit better athletes who will bring trophies to Morgantown.

      If you want to settle for less, give up your gold and blue for green and white.

      • David

        There is no way in you know where that Andrew was ever going to attend WVU. I don't care who was coaching or the offense he was not coming here.

        This is all about the money no doubt. You have to make it to pay the coaches. However, with records like this year the money will dry up quickly. No one backs a loser.

  • jethro

    times are changing , no one likes change

  • mike

    Dave is a marshall community college fan. And the better bring back tony and the gang, with a raise.

  • Lynn

    Can't wait! The "Point After Show",now is 75%ads, will become 99% ads. One wonders if the players will be asked to slip in a word for "X brand."
    Couple this with the $20 parking fee, the increase in donations for the right to buy season tickets, and the $5.00 box of popcorn, many of us are thinking of staying home next year.
    And you can't replace TC. You may hire a new face, but TC is part of the WVU culture. I doubt if any "new guy" would become part of the evening dinner routine in most WVU homes.

    • Big Skinny

      Have you ever tried going to a game at another school such as Florida, Georgia, Texas? It's expensive and they have a long list of people dying to go. That's the nature of the beast. This is a business. WVU has to be competitive in this business.

      With IMG, the ads will cost more and there will be less of them.

      Tune in to other schools. They have been doing this for years.

  • Dave

    Nah they should get rid of Tony and bring in someone with big talent!

  • polarbear

    They better keep Tony C. If not it would be a big blow to WVU fans "from Weirton to Welch from Martinsburg to Matewan" I think I speak for every WVU fan. We love you Tony

  • Ed

    Just dont you dare mess with Tony Caridi and our guys period.That would be worse than telling Jerry West he cannot come back into Wv.Why not put your millions and put it where the sun dont shine,Money aint everything to MOUNTAINEERS.

  • shawn

    It's all about money these days. If they do not retain Tony Caridi then Oliver Luck and company are in deep shi* with the state of WV! I know it means more money for the school but the fans will pay more as well! I'm not to sure on this deal.

    • big tom

      let's hope tony is kicked out, i am sick and tired of his lame broadcasting

    • Dane

      Oliver luck is the worst AD in the NCAA. Anybody who would completely turn away from the fans, and destroy an entire company should be fired!