CSS Expands SEC, Sun Belt Conference Coverage
By John Rice
Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) is expanding regional college-sports coverage as announced in two recent agreements: one with ESPN and the SEC, the other with Cox Sports Television (CST) and the Sun Belt Conference.
CSS has entered into a five-year deal with ESPN, which has a 15-year rights agreement with the SEC. Under the terms, CSS will televise a minimum of six football games, 20 men’s basketball games, 16 women’s basketball games, and more than 50 SEC Olympic sports each year.
In a separate pact, CSS and CST are expanding Sun Belt Conference coverage to a total of 47 events beginning this fall. CSS and CST have had a relationship for Sun Belt events for several years, airing a total of 27 events in the 2008-09 academic year.
“We’re always looking to improve the quality of programming that we provide [to] our customers and our viewers,” says CSS VP/GM Mark Fuhrman. CSS reaches 6 million subscribers in 12 Southeastern states.
For the SEC events, Furhman says, ESPN will produce the football and basketball games while CSS handles production for the Olympic sports. All will have “an SEC-branded look.”
Similarly, CSS and CST will share production responsibilities for Sun Belt Conference events although details are still being worked out, according to Fuhrman. Events to be aired will include football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, volleyball, and softball. Games are aired on both networks, which reach different markets in the Southeast, and “will have a generic look, a Sun Belt-type of look,” explains Travis Llewellyn, Sun Belt assistant commissioner for electronic media. “That way, we are comfortable to have it on two different networks. With a neutral-type look, everyone is comfortable.”
“The [Sun Belt] conference profile has been raised because of their football and basketball programs,” says Fuhrman. “It’s a natural fit from our perspective.” He also points to the conference’s being “aggressive in getting their product out there.”
Noting that the timing of the two announcements is coincidental, Fuhrman says he is pleased with the “opportunity to enhance what we are doing. We feel these two pieces are great ways to do so.”