Alabama Signs Multimedia Extension with Learfield Sports for Up to $160M

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

USA Today

According to a report by Michael Smith of SportsBusiness Journalthe University of Alabama is set to sign a lucrative new multimedia extension with Learfield Sports, which is worth between $150 million and $160 million over the next 10 years.

Per the report:

The University of Alabama is set to capitalize on its success over the last five years by signing one of the nation’s most lucrative multimedia rights deals with Learfield Sports worth at least $150 million to $160 million over 10 years.

...The new financial terms of $15 million to $16 million a year double Alabama’s guarantee previously and put the Tide among the top three schools in multimedia rights revenue behind Texas and Notre Dame, both of which have unique TV arrangements that boost their overall figure.

Learfield has worked with Alabama since 1998 and is now set to continue that relationship until 2024. The Crimson Tide's success over the past five years, when they have won three national titles, make this raise and extension understandable for both parties.

"A lot of things have changed since the last time we negotiated a deal," said Alabama athletic director Bill Battle, according to Smith's report. "This option gave us a chance to look around the marketplace and see how things look now versus five years ago.

"Alabama has been on a pretty good roll since then."

Even before the arrival of Nick Saban (in 2007) and the run of success he has found the past five years, Alabama has long been a name-brand program whose multimedia rights are ostensibly coveted. However, the Mike Shula era in the mid-2000s was one of the most average in program history, which helps explain why the Tide were hitherto so far behind the highest-earning multimedia deals.

Now Alabama will reportedly be one of the top three schools in America in this respect, alongside Texas and Notre Dame. However, both of those programs are bolstered by their TV arrangements (with NBC Sports and ESPN, via The Longhorn Network, respectively) which inflate the bottom line.

Alabama has no such unique arrangement, although this fall it will begin its relationship with the forthcoming SEC Network. Per the report, the only difference between this deal and the previous one between Alabama and Learfield—other than the annual guarantee increase—is that "third-tier" football and basketball games are now controlled by the SEC Network rather than Learfield.

Because each contract is unique and includes different rights to different things, it is difficult to compare them straight up. According to Smith, however, Alabama will now be the clear leader for traditional arrangements (as opposed to those of Texas and Notre Dame), with Ohio State and Georgia both trailing at close to $11 million per year.