HARRISONBURG — The Colonial Athletic Association is still in search of multimedia-rights partners for the 2017-18 athletic season and academic year.
The CAA’s current multimedia contracts all end within the coming weeks as the academic year comes to an end. In 2014, the league started a three-year agreement with the American Sports Network of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and the league also has worked with NBC Sports regional networks to broadcast football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball games.
“There’s been an overall change with how folks are absorbing content,” CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio said during a phone interview Tuesday. “The large rights fees that pay the conferences are more than likely going in a downward direction and it’s certainly not going upward. So it’s incumbent upon us to stay up with the times and get the best deal we can for the conference and our member institutions by combining whatever the linear and digital possibilities are going forward.”
D’Antonio said he does not have a timetable set for when a rights deal could get done for the Colonial. The league opens its football season on Thursday, Aug. 31 when four members play non-conference games while two others — Maine and New Hampshire — open against each other. James Madison opens on Saturday, Sept. 2 at East Carolina.
Back in October, the CAA entered a multiyear partnership with Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment to manage and market the CAA’s multimedia rights.
“What I can tell you is that the process is ongoing and as soon as we can get something in place, that’s what we’re interested in,” D’Antonio said. “We’re not looking to drag this out, but it’s very difficult to give an exact timeline right now.
“We’re looking at all options.”
One factor attributing to the slow pace of securing a multimedia partner is that the American Sports Network will no longer exist like it did over the past three years.
In April, the Baltimore Business Journal reported Sinclair Broadcast Group, which backs ASN, would merge with Silver Chalice, a digital sports media company to rebrand ASN.
“We’ve enjoyed our partnership with them and if they’re going to morph into a different entity, we certainly hope it is something we can be part of with them going forward,” D’Antonio said.
American Sports Network gave CAA football a regular television platform on Saturdays in the fall. ASN had television stations around the country that picked up the games it produced and broadcast.
James Madison football had two of its games — at Maine and at New Hampshire — this past season broadcast on the American Sports Network. In total, the CAA had eight of its 2016 football games broadcast by ASN.
In the coming weeks, as the collegiate spring seasons begin to wrap up, ASN will still broadcast the CAA’s baseball, men’s lacrosse, softball and women’s lacrosse championship games, D’Antonio said.
“Even though [ASN] decided they were going in a different direction, they are honoring those linear responsibilities,” D’Antonio said. “Obviously, then it’s on the different stations to provide clearances.”
The CAA softball championship will be held May 10-12 at JMU’s Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg.
Beyond the next few weeks, D’Antonio said how his league’s games will be seen, and which company would broadcast those games, is still unknown.
“The going-forward piece remains very much up in the air right now,” D’Antonio said.