In December 1993, Fox made a big splash with its entry into sports television by agreeing to pay a then-astounding $1.58-billion over four years for NFL rights.
Fox made another big splash Monday, announcing it had reached a four-year, $330-million agreement with the bowl championship series.
The agreement gives Fox the rights to the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls from 2007 to 2010 and the national championship games in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The 2010 title game will be played at the Rose Bowl, and ABC has the rights.
Fox will be paying an average of $22 million a bowl game during the contract. ABC, in the last two years of a four-year contract to televise all four BCS bowl games, is paying about $25 million a game for the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls. But the average for the four-year, $305-million contract is about $19 million a game.
In August, ABC and the Rose Bowl reached agreement on an eight-year extension that runs through January 2014, with ABC agreeing to pay about $30 million a game.
ABC announced Friday that it had withdrawn its bid for a new BCS bowl deal, reportedly around $17 million a game. ABC officials said they were unhappy with the new BCS structure, which added a fifth game starting in January 2007.
A source said that ABC, given another chance, came back with a higher bid, but BCS officials decided to go with Fox.
Fox already has rights to the NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR. Until now, Fox hasn't been a major player in college football.
"If you look at the landscape of television ... it's a very shaky quagmire," Fox Sports Chairman David Hill said during a conference call. "Big sporting events are the only guarantee there is for advertisers to find viewers."
ABC has held the BCS bowl broadcast rights since 1998, when college football's major conferences implemented the system to crown a national champion. In June, the BCS announced its new format, under which the national championship game will be played at the site of either the Fiesta, Orange, Rose or Sugar bowls the week after those games. The teams in the title game will be determined before the other bowl games are played.
ABC balked at that idea, preferring the teams in the championship game be determined after the other bowls. The BCS considered that arrangement, but it was shot down by college presidents.
"I think we were concerned, as we went into the process, whether there would be market support for the extra game," said BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg, who is also commissioner of the Big 12. "We were pleased to find that we had good interest on the part of multiple networks."