Rarely does too much time pass without hearing Learfield IMG College has agreed to another multimedia rights partnership, on their way to owning a large collection of contracts with elite athletic programs nationwide. But without the NCAA Tournament, and plenty of uncertainty surrounding the start of the college football season due to a global pandemic, Learfield IMG has “quietly” asked schools for 60-day delays in making scheduled payments, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.
Beyond delaying scheduled payments, Learfield IMG is also looking to restructure some of their partnerships to reduce or even eliminate rights fees. While some schools are understanding of the unprecedented times, others, according to the USA Today story, believe Learfield is using the pandemic as a way of obtaining more favorable deals.
The company isn’t alone in their attempt to alter a college sports partnership. Recently, the LA Times reported Under Armour is looking for a way to renege their 15-year $280 million deal with UCLA which launched in 2017. As Under Armour watched their stock plummet from $50 to $9, they’re also now looking to dump their deal with Cal.
Learfield IMG also isn’t the first media company accused of using the pandemic as an excuse to cut costs. When Sports Illustrated parted ways with senior writer Grant Wahl, the longtime journalist suspected the platform was using COVID-19 as justification to permanently reduce his salary.
Learfield and IMG merged in 2018 amid antitrust concerns to create a company worth over $2 billion, representing more than 70% of NCAA Division I athletic programs. Of those representations, Learfield IMG pays around $1 million for smaller programs and up to $15 million annually for high-profile schools.
Learfield IMG offered the following statement to Wolken and USA Today, saying they built “an aggressive campaign to recoup millions in at-risk revenue on behalf of the universities and conferences we represent” following the cancellation of spring sports, but that the economic fallout and uncertainty about fall sports necessitated discussions about adjusting these contracts.
“From the very beginning, our sole objective has been to ensure that all parties are in a position to weather this storm together, and to exit the other side cooperatively invested in a thriving partnership.”
The unknown of how many more losses the sports industry will endure during this global pandemic shouldn’t be discounted as Learfield IMG and other companies restructure their costs. But that restructuring might force college athletic programs to find a new rightsholder or even choose to operate their own media and marketing rights.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Rob Dibble, 97.9 ESPN Help Collect Nearly 5,000 Turkeys
“This year, the support from listeners, sponsors, partners and volunteers helped make a remarkable state-wide impact.”
The station, along with other iHeart Connecticut stations, also raised more than $189,000 during the 23rd annual Turkey Tuesday at Connecticut Foodshare’s headquarters.
“We are continually grateful of the outpouring of donations from our listeners and Connecticut community on our annual events to ensure a Thanksgiving for all,” said iHeartMedia Hartford and New Haven Vice President of Marketing Vanessa Wojtusiak. “This year, the support from listeners, sponsors, partners and volunteers helped make a remarkable state-wide impact.”
Dibble has been a longtime support of Connecticut Foodshare, hosting its director Al Marino on his show several times throughout the year to ensure families in Connecticut have access to the food bank.
Danny O’Neil is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously hosted morning and afternoon drive for 710 ESPN Seattle, and served as a reporter for the Seattle Times. He can be reached on Twitter @DannyOneil or by email at Danny@DannyOneil.com.
Ray Didinger Subject of NFL Films Feature, Tells Angelo Cataldi He’s Stayed Busy in Retirement
Former 94WIP host and Philadelphia Daily News and NBC Sports Philadelphia writer Ray Didinger retired earlier this year, but he told Angelo Cataldi he’s remained busy even though he stepped away from his media career.
“It’s been busier than I thought,” Didinger said. “Just because of the way things have gone in the city. The Phillies going to the World Series, the Eagles are 10-1, I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be this kind of run. Consequently, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I had no idea everyone in the world has a podcast so I’ve been getting all those calls. My name and my phone number are on way too many rolodexes all around the country. When somebody says ‘Hey, let’s do a piece about Philly’, my phone rings. It’s been busy but it’s been good. It’s been great to see what this has meant to the city.”
Didinger hosted shows from 10:00 AM-1:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays for 94WIP. In total, he spent more than 50 years covering the NFL before retiring in May.
After Cataldi asked for Didinger’s opinion on the 2022 Eagles, he asked the now-retired reporter if he was still using his yellow notepad. Didinger admitted he does still use the notepad, and Cataldi chastised his former colleague after he said he would retire the notepad. Cataldi joked when he retires after the Eagles season concludes, he hopes to lose co-hosts Al Morganti and Rhea Hughes’ phone numbers.
Didinger will be the subject of an NFL Films feature about his longtime career covering the league. The program will air on FS1 on Friday at 12:30 AM.
Colin Dunlap: ‘Insane’ What Tom Rinaldi Has Done During Last Week
“He’s going from Doha to Dallas and Kansas City to Doha and Columbus to Doha. Something’s up! There’s two Tom Rinaldi’s.”
It was a banner week for FOX Sports during the Thanksgiving holiday, and no one got more work than the network’s Tom Rinaldi. 93.7 The Fan morning show host Colin Dunlap believes Rinaldi deserves props for his schedule.
“It’s insane what he’s done,” Dunlap said. “I wrote it down and I saw somebody tweet it. Listen to this schedule — and I don’t even know if it’s worth it — but listen to what Tom Rinaldi has done: Wednesday? Qatar. Thursday? Dallas for the Cowboys game. Friday? Back to the US-England match in Qatar. Saturday? In Columbus, Ohio for Michigan/Ohio State. Sunday? Kansas City for the NFL game.
“And then if you’ve gotta guess, he’s gonna be at the American game tomorrow so he’s travelling back to Qatar today. I don’t even travel back and forth to Baltimore like that. He’s going from Doha to Dallas and Kansas City to Doha and Columbus to Doha. Something’s up! There’s two Tom Rinaldi’s.”
Dunlap, co-host Chris Mack, and producer Adam Crowley then discussed whether FOX Sports was using Rinaldi enough. While noting that he’s travelling to all these locations, they believe he isn’t being utilized enough for the bigger stories he’s been known for.
They also joked about whether Rinaldi was flying back and forth on Rupert Murdoch’s private jet and whether or not that would make life easier.