NESN Grows College Coverage With Expanded ACC Agreement
By Carolyn Braff
The New England Sports Network is owned
by the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins, but thanks to a new extension
of the network’s rights agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference,
soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, baseball, and softball are about to
get the same billing as professional basketball and hockey.
“When you want to represent all of
New England sports, you need to be a player in college sports,” explains
Len Mead, director of program development and acquisitions at NESN.
“There are many colleges in our region, and they play in many different
conferences and at many different levels, but there’s little question
that Boston College is the most popular Division I program in our area.
Having the rights to air their basketball games, not to mention their
Olympic sports, puts us in a really good position.”
As expected in deals with a conference
that includes basketball powers Duke, North Carolina, and Maryland,
the newly extended rights agreement between NESN and the ACC focuses
on basketball. More than 40 ACC basketball contests are covered in the
pact, including six Boston College men’s games against teams like
Duke and UNC. NESN will also cover nine women’s-basketball games,
including coverage of the ACC tournament and championship game.
“I think that there’s a tendency
to break down sports coverage by seasons,” Mead explains. “The natural
way people think of things is, there’s Red Sox season for six months
and Bruins season for six months. But we try to move beyond that, and
the college season stretches beyond either of those two seasons. Obviously,
basketball is the marquee sport that we are signing on for, but having
those additional sports keeps us relevant and well-rounded throughout
the calendar year.”
In addition to conference championship
games for men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, men’s and women’s
lacrosse, and softball, the agreement gives NESN exclusive regional
rights to the ACC baseball tournament, which will be played at Fenway
Park in 2010.
“I’m not going to pretend that
college baseball is a dominant sport in the northeast the way it is
in other parts of the country,” Mead says, “but I guarantee that,
when the ACC tournament plays at Fenway Park for a full week, people
are going to be interested.”
For basketball alone, NESN has the
rights to air an extensive selection of ACC games played up and down
the coast, but rather than send a production truck to Clemson, SC, or
Miami, NESN is partnering with the ACC’s other regional partners to
pump their feed through New England.
“We have the rights to produce a
pretty large number of games on our own if we so choose,” Mead says,
“but, from a practical standpoint, the games that we would produce
would be local games, games that are at Boston College.”
NESN enhances the shared regional broadcasts
with its own graphics, but, for the most part, Mead says, the feed comes
fully produced with a neutral graphics package, so there is little legwork
to be done on the network’s end.