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An athletic department has all sorts of important third-party contracts, like their athletic apparel deal, pouring rights deal, and multimedia rights deal. But for P5 schools, the most important is almost always their TV media rights contract.
For many schools, TV revenue is their single largest revenue source. It's how the majority of their fans experience and interface with the department. It can push a school into a completely different conference. It is difficult to overstate just what a big deal these TVs deals are.
The Ohio States and Alabamas of the world might take in $50 million or more from TV over the course of a single season. That...isn't the case across all of D-I.
For the mid-majors of D-I...your FCS football leagues, your single-bid basketball leagues, the financial reality is different. Television is still very important, but it isn't an absolutely massive line-item on the university budget. The America East isn't getting the prime time ESPN tip off, and Vermont isn't getting a $50 million dollar check from Fox. These smaller schools still heavily count on ticket sales, NCAA distributions, multimedia rights, and in most cases, student fees, to pay the bills.
So if TV revenue isn't in the eight figures, how do these conferences decide how to structure their broadcast agreements? What are the important factors to consider?
I wasn't totally sure. But the Big Sky just announced their new TV deal a few weeks ago. So when I was out in Utah on vacation last week, I stopped by their office, and asked them about it.