Who wants a college sports TV network? Who doesn’t?

YouTube Preview ImageSure it was obvious, but I applaud the decision by whoever organized the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum to pipe The Cars “Shake It Up” through the loudspeakers of a bland room in New York’s Marriott Marquis as the conference wrapped up.

College sports — and here I’m the one being obvious — are going through a serious transition. Conferences are realigning, TV deals are being struck, and feelings are getting hurt.

“This has been a painful, stinging two years,” said Chris Plonsky, Women’s Athletic Director at University of Texas, which this year launched its own regional sports network, The Longhorn Network.  The battling “belongs on the field”, she said. “When it comes to business, let’s play nicely in the sandbox.”

Easier said than done, given the big money at stake. Check out these estimates from IMG: College sports have 173 million fans; 79 million of them are female and 29 million of them earn at least $100,000 a year. Those are the kind of numbers that make a TV executive’s head spin.

Sharing the stage with UT’s Plonsky were NBC Sports President Jon Litner, University of Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, and Chris Bevilacqua, a well-known dealmaker who helped put together the Pac-12 TV network.  It was no surprise, then, that Swarbrick was asked about Notre Dame’s own plans for a TV network. (At the moment, Notre Dame, with its huge following, has a long-term deal with NBC reportedly worth around $9 million year).

As Nike sticks by a tarnished Penn St., others flee

The last 10 days have obviously tarnished the Penn State brand, and left advertisers, sponsors, and others closely associated with the university and its football program with some tough questions. Boiled down, it amounts to this: How far should you go to distance yourself from the crisis?

Fallout has already been heavy, so much so that Penn State has hired Ketchum to help the university navigate through the mess. Yet this may be one of those cases — and there are many — when the big PR firm is brought in too late.

“Penn St. has been incredibly tarnished, it’s a huge hit to that brand,” says Paul  Pierson, a partner at branding and design firm Carbone Smolan Agency. “Some of the most damaging things to the brand have already done, like the outpouring of support from the Penn State students for Paterno after the firing,” he adds. “That made it look as though the school cared more about football than ethics.”

At CBS Sports, the good times are rolling

Many of us are looking forward to Saturday night’s prime-time match-up between Louisiana State and Alabama, the top two teams in college football. For a few hours, we get to set aside the craziness of conference realignment, forget about our own dismal teams (Boston College, this means you) and watch a good old-fashioned brawl between two storied programs.

But nobody may be as pumped up about Saturday’s game as Les Moonves, the CBS Corp Chief Executive who, it must be said, gets pumped up about a lot of stuff (ask him about NCIS sometime). Who can blame him — CBS Sports is bound to draw a blockbuster audience for the Southeastern Conference showdown.

“This weekend on our air we essentially have this year’s college football championship when number one LSU plays number two Alabama in prime time,” he said yesterday on an earnings conference call. “You don’t have to wait for the BCS in January this year to find out who the best team in the country is.”

File under acceptance: CBS knows it must pay up for the NFL

This time of year, it seems everybody loves football. The players, the fans, and, of course, the TV executives. And what’s not to like about football if you’re running a TV network, provided you have a deal with the NFL? Check it out, a total of 107 million viewers tuned into games between Thursday and Sunday on CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC.

So it should come as no surprise that CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves, while speaking at today’s Bank of America conference, said he intended to renew the contract with the NFL when it expires in three years. “No surprise there,” he said. Indeed. The bigger question is what will CBS end up paying? Just last week, ESPN signed a new contract with the NFL at $1.9 billion a year. Repeat: $1.9 billion. That is about 73 percent more than ESPN previously paid the NFL.

As The New York Post’s Claire Atkinson points out in a story today, the ESPN deal has come under some heavy fire, particularly from the pay-TV industry, worried that it’s going to jack up rates.

When it comes to NFL, TV executives put on brave face

NFL players association members arrive for negotiations with NFL in Washington Mar 11 2011

Shrewd? Prescient? Delusional? Tough to know, but top TV executives this week all seemed relatively confident — even off the record — when asked about the chances that NFL games would be played this fall.

The background, of course, is that NFL team owners and players are at odds over salary caps and other issues, raising the possibility of a lockout and the cancellation of some or all of the 2011 football season. Very bad news, if you’re a fan or a network executive.

Researchers use Intel chips to build better football helmets

 Football players infamously take a serious amount of punishment. Now, Intel is offering up a way to measure the extent of that pootential physical damage.

footballIntel is currently working with universities and a sports equipment maker to build an intelligent football helmet.

Researchers and helmet-maker Riddell are using clusters of computers powered by Intel chips to rapidly compute the risks and ways that a football player could be injured as he slams into a 220 lb linebacker and other typical head impacts.

Football in 3D, coming to a theater near you

The first-ever 3D broadcast of an NFL game was rushed into movie theaters in three U.S. cities last night, kicking off what many hope could be a new way of generating revenue for theater operators.

We attended the event in Los Angeles, where a throng of football fans, reporters and Hollywood executives donned black plastic 3D glasses and crammed into a stadium-style theater for kickoff between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers.

In an interview the day before the game, Michael Lewis, chief executive and co-founder of 3D system provider RealD 3D, said of the experience: “You feel like you are really on the field in the middle of the action,” and called the event “the dawn of live events at your local theater.”

from Summit Notebook:

NFL exec: Most of our players are good guys

The NFL is getting a lot of gruff over the fact that some of its players have been taking the "bad boy" persona a wee bit too far. But the league says that most of its players know that violence belongs on the field; not at home, in bars or, say, crossing state lines.

Eric Grubman, the NFL's top business executive, declined to comment on the incident involving New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress -- who shot himself this past weekend.

But Grubman told the Reuters Media Summit that most of the league's other players behave themselves.