Fox to announce deal to air Fiesta, Orange, Sugar bowls in '06
In TV college football, Fox will start at the top.
On Monday, Fox will announce a four-year deal to carry four Bowl Championship Series games, according to an executive familiar with the negotiations, starting with bowls after the 2006 regular season. In displacing ABC, Fox will break into college football by paying at least $20 million annually each for the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls as well as a new fifth BCS bowl to be played at the site of the national title game about a week before that game.
Fox's $80 million total for four BCS games is up from the $76.5 million total that ABC averages for the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls. Through an existing deal, ABC keeps the Rose Bowl — and thus the BCS title game every four years.
Weird. Only in the crazy quilt of college football's method of crowning a champion could a network step up to buy the biggest games. It's as if Fox, whose main college football coverage consists of less-than-marquee Pacific-10 and Big 12 games on cable's Fox Sports Net, didn't carry the NFL — but got to buy the AFC and NFC title games and the Super Bowl.
But expect Fox, which relies on big sports events to help build its network, to keep shopping for college sports. College games, along with the package of eight NFL games on Thursday or Sunday now up for grabs, could help Fox launch a cable sports channel meant to compete with ESPN. But even if that doesn't materialize, Rupert Murdoch's Fox already has opened up another front in its TV sports' rivalry with Disney's ABC and ESPN. And the big winner, so far, are the colleges who've found another buyer for the exploits of their student-athletes.