Cable network to pay $500,000 to air high school games

Cameron Smith

The New York City Department of Education may have come up with an original solution to the ongoing debt crisis that is affecting school districts across the nation: Charge a cable network an exorbitant amount to televise NYC public school sporting events.

According to the Associated Press and other New York outlets, representatives of the NYC Board of Education are closing in on a deal with Cablevision to televise all of the district's public sports contests on Cablevision's MSG Varsity network. While that might not seem like a striking change, the fee that the NYC Board of Education has negotiated will turn some heads: $500,000 for two years.

Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson donates bats to the PSAL

Not surprisingly, a school district spokesman said the funds from the broadcast rights would be used to fund high school sports programs, like the South Bronx (N.Y.) High baseball team pictured with Curtis Granderson above.

That's right: An upper tier cable network is prepared to pay half a million dollars for the rights to New York City public school athletic broadcasting rights. Granted, there are a horde of teams and games played in New York's Public School Athletic League, but $250,000 seems like an incredible sum for one relatively small slice of an enormous region's television broadcast rights.

In fact, the sum appears even more extreme upon further consideration. While the PSAL may be home to the area's most dominant football programs, the Catholic league has long held the most prominent basketball teams and prospects, the recent closing of Bronx (N.Y.) Brother Rice Academy notwithstanding.

The fee is also significant in setting a benchmark for other school districts in the New York area. MSG Varsity covers prep sports throughout the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. If Cablevision -- which owns MSG Network and MSG Varsity outright -- is paying $250,000 per year to televise games from within New York City, how much can conferences with more hyped matchups charge for their rights?

And what's to keep private schools and the best athletic academies -- Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic in New Jersey are annual contenders for the RivalsHigh football national title -- from demanding inflated fees to televise either their entire season slate, or particularly hyped games?

Perhaps the NYC Board of Education deal is simply the result of a particularly shrewd negotiation on the part of a city lawyer or some other supporter of the city's public school sports. Perhaps MSG Varsity feels that broadcasting PSAL games is more essential than any other contests because such a disproportionate number of the networks viewers hail from within the five boroughs themselves.

Whatever the reason, other networks from across the nation must simply hope that the mooted broadcast deal, which is expected to be agreed upon at a meeting on July 20, isn't just the tip of the prep broadcast rights iceberg.

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