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Report: Conference USA TV Revenue to decline

A report states C-USA’s new TV deal will cause TV revenue to take a significant drop.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Minium from the Virginia Pilot is reporting that according to his sources, C-USA schools could see $500,000 less in TV revenue with C-USA's looming new TV deal that is expected to be announced in the coming months.

For the past six years, Fox Sports and CBS Sports have paid C-USA more than $14 million per year, which calculates to $1.17 million per school, but the original deal was done in 2011 with the likes of basketball power Memphis, and strong football programs and TV markets like East Carolina, Houston, Tulsa, and UCF.

Conference USA will be the first Group of Five conference to renew their TV deal in the conference realignment era.

The league powers at be will continue to discuss the reportedly nearly completed deal in meetings later this month.

Here are some of the major points in Minium's report and what they mean in UTEP's case.

COA issues

The reduction in revenue will come at a difficult time for C-USA schools. Most of them are in the process of trying to find revenue to fund the so-called full cost of attendance. Division I schools were given permission a year ago to compensate athletes for costs such as cellphone bills, clothes and travel not covered by athletic scholarships.

It appears UTEP isn't having any issues with paying COA, but the loss of TV revenue and declining football attendance has to have the Athletic Department on some sort of alert for the possible loss of dinero.

Loss of previous conference lineup appeal kills viewership?

The loss of TV revenue wasn't entirely unexpected. When C-USA signed a six-year deal with Fox and the CBS Sports Network in 2011, the league boasted one of the nation's top men's basketball programs in Memphis. It also had Houston, Central Florida, Tulsa, Tulane and SMU, all good football programs in large markets, as well as ECU, traditionally an attendance leader among mid-major FBS schools.

Those schools have since left for the American Athletic Conference, and C-USA quickly replaced them primarily with schools in large TV markets.

However, C-USA's new members -- ODU, Florida International, UNC Charlotte and Texas-San Antonio -- do not have the TV allure of Memphis, Houston and ECU.

UTEP and many other C-USA schools like UTSA, ODU, LA Tech, and UAB have strong local TV reach, but the current state of C-USA's membership just isn't appealing for a big national TV deal in my opinion.

Moving to the Mountain West in UTEP's case could change that notion, but it isn't happening anytime soon.

The more important aspect at this point is filling empty seats in the Sun Bowl and Don Haskins Center before UTEP is a must-see TV product outside of El Paso, and alumni outside of El Paso in attempt to make up loss funds if UTEP has been relying on this TV money.

Thank god for American Sports Network

Without ASN, ODU's would have had a minimal television profile. ASN televised 30 C-USA games, including nine involving ODU. Fox Sports televised just two ODU games and the CBS Sports Network none.

ASN has also been the primary TV outlet for ODU basketball. In 2013-2014, ODU's first year in C-USA, none if its games were on C-USA networks.

ASN formed over the summer of 2014 and cast ODU basketball a lifeline -- the network televised 14 Monarch men's basketball games last season and eight of the 12 games to be broadcast by C-USA networks this season.

The close relationship between Conference USA and ASN was apparent at the league football media day this past summer, which was held in Boca Raton last summer to coincide with the opening of the network's new TV headquarters in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Obviously this is an ODU centric report, but the same ASN exposure can be said for a number of schools including UTEP basketball.  UTEP's basketball program seems to be an attraction to network since UTEP fans will turn on TV's for C-USA road games to watch the Miners.

As much as we joke, and crack on ASN, we are lucky to have them even though it doesn't stimulate budgets.   It's a nice deal in terms of seeing UTEP regularly, but it's not paying any bills it appears.

How C-USA stacks up against others with current deal

Each SEC school received $22 million in TV money last year. The American Athletic Conference, considered the best of the nation's five mid-major FBS leagues, generates $2 million in TV revenue per school.

According to media reports, Mountain West schools receive about $1.7 million each, Mid-American Conference schools about $670,000 and Sun Belt Conference schools about $100,000.

Even though the MAC and Sun Belt make less than C-USA's current deal, the fact they are on ESPN, and have a few games streamed via ESPN 3 is a big plus in my book.

According to Minium, "ESPN is already flush" with TV inventory, and I guess the current C-USA membership just isn't appealing for a C-USA investment for the World Wide Leader, even a streaming deal.


Is C-USA alone or will the AAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West, and MAC feel the same effects in the future?