Classic Sports Founders To Tip College Sports Net

Classic Sports Network co-founders Brian Bedol and Steve Greenberg are about to give it the old college try.

The pair, whose retro sports service was purchased by ESPN in 1997, are reentering the cable business with a new digital entity dedicated to college sports. Set to debut in 2003, National College Sports Network will offer live games and ancillary programming — both original and acquired — focusing on college sports from basketball and football to track and field and baseball, Bedol said.

The network also counts former Nike executive Chris Bevilacqua as a cofounder.

Bedol would not reveal the network's financial partners but did say that it will amass more than $100 million in seed money to launch the venture.

"College sports is the biggest niche that hasn't been filled," Bedol said. "Given the popularity of college sports, it's surprising that there hasn't been a channel dedicated to the genre."

While the broadcast networks, along with ESPN, Fox Sports Net and Turner Sports, hold rights to high-profile college-football and basketball packages, Bedol said the new network will offer live games from both sports, as well as shoulder programming supporting key rivalries that may appear on other channels

College Sports will also provide classic games and coverage of tournaments in several sports, as well as assisting colleges in alumni fund-raising and athletic-recruitment efforts.

The network already lists the Big Ten Conference as a partner, although it's unclear what conference events it will actually televise.

Bedol said the network is talking with several MSOs about distribution, but it has yet to reach any deals.

He would not disclose the network's rate card.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.