HARRISONBURG — While men’s basketball and football formed the foundation of the new partnership between the Colonial Athletic Association and FloSports, the so-called non-revenue sports were a factor in negotiations and the across-the-board success of James Madison’s athletic department may have played a role in the conference’s favor.
Last week, the CAA and FloSports agreed to a deal that makes the league the first NCAA Division I conference with an online streaming service its primary media rights partner. FloSports will pay the CAA a reported $4.5 million for the four-year deal, which includes the rights to broadcast 300 games beginning in the 2019-20 school year.
“For us to be on the ground level, in with a partner that wants to be our partner just as much as we want to be their partner, wants to grow as much as we want to grow, that was a good opportunity for us,” CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio said.
The deal includes streaming broadcast rights for 50 football games and 140 men’s and women’s basketball contests, meaning 110 games in the package will be other sports. A FloSports subscription will be available for $12.50 per month beginning this summer.
The nuts and bolts of the deal were part of a strategic plan to enhance the conference’s profile in men’s basketball, which is by far the biggest revenue-generating opportunity for mid-major leagues such as the CAA. But the ability to stream other sports, including women’s basketball was a selling point for FloSports, and JMU was a large part of the appeal.
The success of the Dukes, who have made 14 straight postseason appearances and are the fourth winningest program in women’s basketball, has allowed JMU to put together an appealing schedule on an annual basis.
This past season, JMU played host to Big East schools Georgetown and St. John’s and next season perennial national power Maryland is expected to visit to Convocation Center. Those home games would be available to FloSports.
JMU has used the availability and production quality of its in-house MadiZONE broadcasts as a recruiting tool. More games on Flo may mean a higher cost for anyone who wants to watch the Dukes, but it may also increase the availability and quality of games against league opponents.
“Obviously, it’s a good deal for the CAA if they made it,” JMU women’s coach Sean O’Regan said. “As a whole, it’s better for the conference because it increases how well broadcasts have to be done. I think MadiZONE has been one of the better ones, but I don’t know how much the costs will affect the viewership.”
First-rate productions for Flo streams of all sports has become a priority.
“The ante has been upped,” D’Antonio said. “If there’s going to be a game on Flo, you just can’t put a camera in the center of the field and go and back and forth.”
And while the CAA hopes to spread the wealth, so to speak, to each school in the conference, the reality is the potential for increased exposure for the Dukes. JMU has experienced recent success on a national level in women’s lacrosse, men’s soccer and softball, making the Dukes strong candidates for the limited number FloSports regular-season games in those sports.
The CAA will continue its contract with Lax Sports Network to stream lacrosse games, including the CAA semifinals and finals, which will again be held in Harrisonburg next spring.
“Of the 110 ‘other sports’ games, about 75 of those are CAA championships,” JMU assistant athletic director Kevin Warner said. “So only 35 regular-season games from all sports. I think they expect they can work around the regular season [lacrosse] aspect of LSN.”
But similar to women’s basketball, those programs’ ability to land home games against major conference opponents was intriguing to FloSports.
“There’s not specified number of times each school needs to be on,” D’Antonio said. “We’re going to try to create a synergy where there’s going to be a unilateral number where each school will get a certain number of appearances. But we also understand there are unique situations that exist throughout the conference.”