After retaining an outside vendor to handle its radio and multimedia rights for 15 years, the University of Nebraska’s athletic department is set to bring these operations in house when its deal with Learfield/IMG expirers this summer. That includes Husker Sports Radio, which airs on nearly 50 radio stations in the Upper Midwest.
Through a series of deals during the past two decades, Learfield/IMG has built a roster that’s become a who’s who of college sports, including the multimedia rights to the Big 12, Big Ten and A-10 conferences, as well as nearly 200 college teams. Schools that once handled the licensing of play-by-play on radio or television themselves today rely on Learfield/IMG as a one-stop-shop to negotiate not only their media deals, but things like in-stadium advertising, event sponsorships, even the official athletics websites in some cases.
Nebraska has contracted with the college sports powerhouse since 2006 and will retain the company for some services. But the university, home to one of the most-prized properties in college athletics, is reportedly set to be the first Power Five conference school to completely bring its entire multimedia rights operation within the athletic department, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
Learfield/IMG was reportedly paying $72 million to Nebraska Athletics over the remaining six years of the contract.
“Learfield/IMG College and Nebraska Athletics have enjoyed a great partnership for many years and will continue to be affiliated in the licensing, ticketing and digital space,” Nebraska Athletics Senior Deputy AD Garrett Klassy told News Channel Nebraska in a statement.
As the June 30 end date of its contract with Learfield/IMG drew near, NU had been considering bids from other vendors and evaluating the upside of taking its operation in house. The school is preparing to hire staff to handle the myriad responsibilities that come with such an undertaking.
College football reportedly accounts for roughly half of Learfield/IMG’s multimedia rights revenue, and the Wall Street Journal reported last August that the collegiate sports marketing company has already been trying to renegotiate its agreements with universities as it faced the prospect of cancelled or sharply modified college football seasons last fall. The WSJ said one school, Kansas State University, switched to a revenue-sharing model instead of the fixed-fee arrangement when it reworked its deal with Learfield/IMG last June.