NEW York -- Fox is adding the Bowl Championship Series to its high-priced sports lineup.
The network and the BCS announced a four-year deal worth $320 million Monday that gives Fox the broadcast rights to the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls
from 2007-10 and the national title game from 2007-09.
In scooping up the BCS, Fox is sticking with a strategy of banking on big-time sporting events that started when it landed the NFL 11 years ago. The
network recently extended its deal with the NFL, paying $4.3 billion for the rights to broadcast NFC games through 2011.
In 2000, Fox acquired the exclusive rights to major league baseball's postseason and All-Star game from 2001-06 for $2.5 billion.
"If you look at the landscape of television ... it's a very shaky quagmire," Fox Sports chairman David Hill said. "Big sporting events are the only
guarantee there is for advertisers to find viewers."
ABC has held the broadcast rights to the BCS since college football's major conferences implemented the system to crown a national champion in
ABC withdrew from the bidding last week. Network officials said they were unhappy with the new BCS structure, which added a fifth game. Starting with
the 2006 season, the national title game will be played at the site of either the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar or Rose Bowls the week after those games.
"I think we were concerned as we went into the process whether there would be market support for the extra game," BCS coordinator and Big 12
commissioner Kevin Weiberg said. "We were pleased to find that we had good interest on the part of multiple networks."
The deal with Fox cements the new setup, which increases the number of teams in the BCS from eight to 10.
The BCS considered making the fifth game a championship game with two teams advancing from the first four bowls, essentially taking the first step
toward a Division I-A playoff. But college presidents shot down that so-called "plus-one" concept -- although there still was speculation that a TV
network would persuade the BCS to adopt that mini-playoff.
Now that possibility again appears to be dead, at least until 2010.
"We totally accepted what was being offered by the BCS," Hill said.
The national title game will rotate among the four bowl games. ABC still holds the rights to the Rose Bowl through 2014, including the rights to the
national title game when it is played in Pasadena.
ABC paid about $305 million for four years in its expiring BCS deal.
"This agreement does allow us to have increased revenue for distribution in our system," Weiberg said.
BCS games have been paying out $14-$17 million to the participants. Weiberg said the BCS projects those payouts to increase during the Fox
Weiberg said all the Division I-A conferences and Notre Dame were involved in the negotiations.
"I feel very strongly that it is time to end the talk of BCS and non-BCS conferences," he said.
Weiberg said the BCS also drew interest from sponsor-driven groups, including at least one that would have involved the College Sports Network.
"That interest says the BCS is valuable to corporate America and Madison Avenue," Fox Sports president Ed Goren said.
Until now, Fox hasn't been a major player in college football. The network has had the rights to the Cotton Bowl since 1999, and its Fox SportsNet
affiliates have contracts with the Big 12 and Pac-10.
The network has no immediate plans to expand its regular season college football coverage.
Goren said Fox will be looking for announcers that will give their college football coverage a look and sound distinct from their other sports.
"We're looking to put together a production and broadcast team that will be associated with the BCS for many years to come," Goren said.