The State of the College Sports Media Rights Marketplace


  • John Ourand, Media Reporter at Sports Business Journal (Moderator)
  • Michael Smith, Writer at Sports Business Journal (Moderator)
  • AJ Maestas, Founder of Navigate
  • Bob Thompson, Founder of Thompson Sports Group LLC
  • Michael Nathanson, Senior Managing Director & Founder at MoffettNathanson LLC
  • Lee H Berke, President & CEO at LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media Inc.

Webinar Recap

The State of the College Sports Media Rights Marketplace

LEAD1 webinar moderated by SBJ’s Smith and Ourand highlights current and future state of college sports media landscape.

Prepared by LEAD1 Association


Experts have calculated that media rights revenue has become the most valuable revenue stream across US sports and will only continue to increase over the next several years. In addition, over the past couple decades, media rights revenue in college sports has grown faster than all other revenue streams. Emerging tech companies with billions to spend as well as the rise of over-the-top (OTT) media has also created new opportunities to reimagine media rights than ever before. On that front, on Monday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1) hosted its latest webinar, moderated by Sports Business Journal’s Michael Smith and John Ourand, where experts discussed the current and future state of the college sports media rights marketplace. Here are some of the important takeaways:


  • College sports is more complex than professional sports like the NFL from a media rights standpoint. In that regard, the college sports media marketplace has taken much longer to evolve than in professional sports. Historically, college sports media deals were simple. But, today, with streaming apps, tiers of rights, and cord cutting considerations, as well as hundreds of college football games to choose from, programmers have more difficult content-related decisions to make.
  • There are numerous criteria that conferences consider when expanding. Size of media markets and ratings are only some of the criteria for conferences to contemplate when considering expansion. There are also unquantifiable considerations such as possible rivalries and matchups. Athletics directors have significant influence on expansion, but presidents are ultimately the decision-makers on media rights. In that vein, more and more presidents are leaning upon their conference commissioners for expertise, many of whom have previous significant college sports media and business experience.
  • The Big 12 and Pac 12 conference media rights contracts, both of which expire over the next few years, will be very indicative of the college sports arms race moving forward. Long-term SEC, Big 10, and ACC media rights deals have already been completed. Although there may be significant disparities among FBS institutions on media payouts, a country-wide competitive playoff system will continue to yield significant media revenue for all FBS schools. The issue among institutions who may attempt to leave for another conference is that grants-of-rights deals, or institutions agreeing to transfer their media rights for a set amount of time, make it legally challenging to move. As a result, it would be hard for conferences to consolidate their media rights at this point. With that in mind, media deals in the future may become shorter and shorter because of the fluidity in the media market. Additionally, questions remain as to whether streaming companies like Amazon will get into the college sports mix as more games are up against the NFL and conferences will need to feel more comfortable in fully utilizing streaming.

More in the recording can be found on college sports media rights considerations, including experts predicting the future of Notre Dame’s media rights contract.