It is another big week if you are in the Bevilacqua family. While Chris watches a Pac 12 Network that he helped guide launch and begins assisting the Big East in their TV negotiations, his dad Al, a legendary coach and wrestling hall of famer, is reveling in USA Wrestling’s two gold medals in the London Olympics. However, the younger Bevilacqua’s success has been helping elite properties on the TV side, not the mat, in recent years.
As co-founder of New York-based Bevilacqua Helvant partners, the Westchester, NY resident has guided some of the bigger deals in TV and digital rights negotiations in recent years, including the parceling out of the Pac 12 rights into national and regional deals and now their own TV network which will launch on Tuesday. “The Pac 12 was unique in that they wanted to split up their TV rights and create a new division that gave them an opportunity to have national TV partners and still have the ability to create their own network,” he said. “Each deal is different, and they were able to take advantage of a marketplace that was in flux, along with some great content, to launch their vision.”
Now Bevilacqua will take the lessons learned from that deal as well as ones with to assist the Big East (who according to reports this morning will name CBS Sports Mike Aresco as their new commissioner) in their media negotiations, which will heat up as the league’s exclusive window with ESPN begins. Like the other deals he has worked on, Bevilacqua sees tremendous value in a league that has a national footprint coming as well as a goal to pool all its rights to get the best possible deal. “The Big East has the great advantage going forward of being in most of the most densely populated and most vibrant media markets in the country, which really is unlike any other conference,” he added. “There is nothing like the value of live sports content, and combined with market size going forward, they will present some interesting possibilities.”
Beginning Sept. 1, the Big East will enter a 60-day exclusive negotiating window with ESPN for a renewal of their broadcast rights. According to some reports, the conference, under then-Commissioner John Marinatto rejected a deal with the network last year that would have netted them $1.17 billion over nine years. The thought being that the new structure in the open market could bring more dollars. Earlier this year the ACC revamped its contract with ESPN, after adding Big East defectors Syracuse and Pittsburgh, and upped their rights to $17.1 million per school annually. Outside of the college ranks, rights for other sports entities have skyrocketed, as well, with the Texas Rangers $3 billion deal over a 20-year span reported this summer, a deal Bevilacqua also helped negotiate. Will those pieces now help the conference go beyond ESPN’s original offer?
“These deals are all like snowflakes, each are unique in their own way,” he added. “What is similar is that each deal has great content, and that content can be delivered on multiple platforms to the consumer when and how he or she wants it. Having that type of leverage gives the provider a chance to really bring tremendous value to their broadcast partner or partners.”
As far as the Big East negotiation goes, are their lessons learned from the past and most recent deals that the conference can benefit from? “It is early in the process but it is clear that the Big East is going to be very attractive as a property,” he added. “They have been placed in the unique position to look at the recent deals and bring many different aspects of an attractive deal to the table. All those aspects…licensing, digital, broadcast…can be very attractive when packaged in a certain manner, they have a great opportunity.”
Opportunity that can now perhaps be brought to fruition by a negotiator who has leant his expertise to other landmark deals and now may have caught another property which was once down and may now be on the upswing again.