Fox picks up Big East basketball for 12 years

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(Reuters) – Fox Sports has signed a 12-year contract to carry the new Big East basketball conference, the first major sports rights agreement it has entered since announcing its new national cable channel to compete with ESPN.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. A source close to the matter estimated the deal was worth between $500 million and $600 million over the 12 years. Fox, owned by News Corp, has been buying sports rights to showcase on its new cable network, dubbed Fox Sports 1, which will debut in August.

The newly constituted conference will add Butler, Creighton and Xavier to the so-called “Catholic 7” schools – Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, DePaul – which are starting a league July 1 called the “Big East”.

The seven schools broke from the Big East conference, but will retain the conference’s name and branding for their league. The former conference known as the Big East will be re-named shortly. That conference signed a multiyear basketball and football contract with ESPN on Tuesday.

As part of the agreement, Fox will have the rights to all of the conference basketball games, some women’s basketball games, Olympic sports and other content.

Fox Sports 1 will televise more than 100 regular season games as well as the Big East tournament. The deal includes digital rights as well which will be tapped for the Fox Sports Go app for mobile devices.

The sports cable channel already has rights to college football and basketball from other athletic conferences, Major League baseball games, Nascar, Ultimate Fighting Championship and soccer. Fox executives have said that the new network is on the hunt for other sports deals.

Fox joins media companies from NBC to Al Jazeera in chasing the advertising dollars that flow to live sports programming. These channels also collect monthly subscription fees paid by cable operators that generate a steady stream of revenue.

News Corp shares were trading 33 cents higher by 1.1 percent at $29.96 per share on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker- Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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