CAA, NBC Sports Group reach deal on broadcast rights

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The Colonial Athletic Association announced a five-year broadcast package with the NBC Sports Group to handle the conference’s national football and basketball rights.

NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) will televise 12 men’s basketball games and five football games each season beginning with the 2012-13 school year.

Commissioner Tom Yeager declined to disclose terms of the agreement beyond acknowledging “it is a significant enhancement of our position from where we’ve been.”

The CAA previously had eight men’s basketball games broadcast nationally each season under its expiring deal with ESPN.

The agreement also includes 39 regionally televised men’s and women’s basketball games on the Comcast SportsNet regional networks and additional digital coverage on NBCSports.com. Comcast, the parent company of the CSN regional networks, completed its purchase of NBC Universal earlier this year.

The most curious impact of the deal could be if there are any changes to the CAA tournament. The Richmond-based event currently is played the Friday through Monday before most power conference tournaments and Yeager said no decisions have been made on the event’s format.

NBC Sports Network (which reaches 75 million homes) will carry both the semifinals and the final of the tournament.

“Monday night has been established by an ESPN window,” Yeager said. “It’ll give us an opportunity to talk about, all things considered, is that for the best interest for us, not just for television but also fan attendance for the tournament.”

Yeager said the agreement, the first between a college conference and the recently renamed NBC Sports Network, was completed over the last six months. The agreement covers all CAA home games, though Yeager said there was an exception for ESPN’s Bracket Buster event.

The deal comes less a year after Virginia Commonwealth reached the Final Four, providing added exposure for a conference that had already sent George Mason to the national semifinals in 2006 and had a broadcast rights agreement coming up for negotiations. Could that be fortuitous timing?

“It sure doesn’t hurt,” Yeager said.

Patrick Stevens

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