TV board stands up for free bowl games


With ESPN having outbid Fox for the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), the NAB Television Board is taking the fight to Capitol Hill to keep major sporting events available to all Americans on free, over-the-air television. NAB lobbyists are set to tell lawmakers that moving such events to pay television disenfranchises some segments of society.

The NAB Television Board of Directors yesterday adopted a resolution advocating support for Americans’ continued free access to major televised sporting events.

"Broadcasters continue to support the rights of all Americans to have free access to telecasts of major sporting events, particularly those of publicly funded educational institutions," the resolution states. "The NAB Television Board of Directors hereby directs NAB staff to work with policymakers to educate them on the importance of ensuring that no segments of society are disenfranchised from this highly valued programming."

SportsBusiness Daily had reported that ESPN bid $500 million, or $125 per year for the four-year BCS contract, beginning in January 2011. That was a 50%-plus increase from the $82.5 million that Fox is paying annually under the current contract. Fox reportedly offered a 25% increase, but would go no higher.

NAB noted that the most recent study by the Government Accountability Office found that roughly 20 million US households rely exclusively on over-the-air TV.

RBR/TVBR observation: We predicted when this BCS deal was announced that it would become a hot political issue. The NAB Television Board is making sure the fire is stoked.