LAWRENCE — More of Kansas’ men’s basketball games are going to cable.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
KU athletics and IMG College, which holds multimedia rights for KU games that don’t fall under the Big 12’s television contracts, announced Tuesday a long-term television partnership with Time Warner Cable Sports.
The deal, according to KU, will include regional distribution for more than 300 hours of original KU sports programming annually, including live games, other coverage and replays.
It also means KU men’s basketball games carried by Jayhawk Television and broadcast on KSMO-TV Channel 62 in Kansas City last season will move to Time Warner’s Metro Sports channel. Last season, Jayhawk Television aired six KU basketball games, including two exhibitions. The rest of KU’s men’s basketball games were broadcast under the Big 12’s television deals with ESPN and CBS.
“When Time Warner Cable Sports approached us with this concept, we knew, if done right, it could greatly benefit Kansas Athletics and our fan base,” Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger said in a news release announcing the partnership.
Kansas officials said the exposure of the ancillary programming that Time Warner could create was a key point in the deal. But Tuesday, questions remained concerning how Time Warner would deliver content to viewers who have a cable provider that doesn’t offer Metro Sports, Time Warner’s local sports channel in the Kansas City area.
Metro Sports is currently available to Kansas City-area subscribers of Time Warner and Comcast in addition to WOW, the cable provider in Lawrence.
KU said that Jayhawk Television games would continue to be available live on WIBW-TV in Topeka and tape delayed on WOW Channel 6 in Lawrence, in addition to a weekly magazine-style show.
But what about customers of Dish Network, DirecTV and the Kansas City area’s other cable providers, such as AT&T, SureWest and Google Fiber?
KU associate athletics director Jim Marchiony said Tuesday that all Jayhawks men’s basketball games would be available “statewide,” but couldn’t disclose how that will be accomplished.
Zenger also said on KU athletics’ Twitter account that more KU programming would be available throughout the state than before.
Jason Booker, general manager for Jayhawk IMG Sports Marketing, said in a news release Tuesday that “Kansas Athletics programming distribution details for the rest of the state are being discussed.”
When asked if the Jayhawk TV basketball games could be available on cable providers that don’t currently carry Metro Sports, a Time Warner Cable Sports official in Los Angeles referred The Star to Booker’s statement.
The six basketball games fall under the Jayhawks’ third-tier television rights, which are owned by member schools in the Big 12. A majority of Big 12 schools have third-tier agreements with Fox, while Texas has launched its own ESPN-affiliated Longhorn Network.
The Jayhawks’ deal with IMG College, which is for all multimedia rights, including the radio network, corporate broadcasting and signage in stadiums and arenas, pays KU athletics $6.5 million dollars a year.
In the past, KU basketball games distributed by IMG College were shown over-the-air on Channels 38 or 62 in Kansas City and on KSNW in Wichita. That, Marchiony says, will change in both markets.
“We think that a vast majority of sports fans already have cable,” Marchiony said. “And this was also an opportunity to do something for the rest of Kansas athletics sports. And that’s what makes it such an attractive arrangement for us.”
Marchiony added that KU men’s basketball games would still be available nationally on packages such as ESPN Full Court.
In addition to men’s basketball games, Time Warner will carry a total of 50 athletic events this upcoming season, including football, women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, and track and field events.
Time Warner’s non-game Kansas programming will also be available to Time Warner Cable customers across the country via video on demand. It’s unclear whether that programming will be able to be viewed by those currently without access to Metro Sports.