The Idaho High School Activities Association board of directors voted 8-6 Wednesday to finalize an online broadcasting contract with the NFHS Network, ending an 11-year exclusive relationship with IdahoSports.com.
IdahoSports.com owned the exclusive webcasting contract since the 2005-06 school year and provided broadcasts for free on its website. But the NFHS Network, which requires viewers to pay to watch live events, outbid the Idaho company for the rights for the next five years.
The NFHS Network offered $45,000 a year for the first three years of the deal and $65,000 for each of the final two years. IdahoSports.com bid $10,000 a year, plus 60 percent of revenue from future high-definition broadcasts, which it planned to charge for.
“We are very cautiously optimistic in the long run this is going to be a win-win for everybody,” said Ty Jones, executive director of the IHSAA. “We’re going to be able to continue to provide the exact same things we’ve always provided, and we’re going to continue to help our member schools out.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Fans looking to watch live events on the NFHS Network can choose between three subscription tiers — $9.95 for a day pass, $14.95 for a 30-day pass and $119.95 for a yearly pass.
The contract awards the NFHS Network state tournament rights but only requires it to broadcast championship events in football, basketball, wrestling, track, cheer and dance. It also applies to soccer when the necessary stadium facilities are available. It does not include regular-season games or district tournaments.
The NFHS Network can decline to broadcast state tournament games before the state championship. The rights to those games would then return to the IHSAA, and Jones said the organization could then award those games to IdahoSports.
IdahoSports operated under the same contract but opted to broadcast all state tournament games, as well as state volleyball, which is not covered under the deal.
“We’ve had a relationship for 15 years with the IHSAA, broadcasting for 10,” IdahoSports.com owner Paul Kingsbury said. “That relationship isn’t going to go away. IdahoSports.com isn’t going to go away. We do a lot more than that.
“We’ll just kind of sit back, evaluate, evolve and move forward. One door closes and another one opens.”
The NFHS Network, founded Aug. 1, 2013, operates in 44 other states as a joint venture between the National Federation of State High School Associations, individual state high school associations and PlayOn! Sports, a company based in Atlanta. Under Armour is its major sponsor.
Who will call and produce Idaho games on the NFHS Network remains unknown. IdahoSports could work out a deal as a subcontractor.
“From what I’ve been told, the NFHS Network is going to be contacting me to see if we can have a meeting and talk about it and see if there’s something there,” Kingsbury said. “I’m willing to have that conversation. I don’t know what will happen either way.”
IdahoSports previously did not pay for its webcasting rights, instead trading its services to run the IHSAA website and serve as tech support for the organization. But with costs continuing to rise, IHSAA board member Jason Knopp said the organization couldn’t pass up the opportunity for extra revenue.
The IHSAA pulled in $1,758,138 in total revenue in 2014, according to tax documents from the most recent year available. The $35,000 separating IdahoSports’ and the NFHS Networks’ bids in the first year represents a 3 percent revenue boost for the IHSAA.
“You obviously can’t always see into the future,” said Knopp, who voted for the NFHS Network. “But looking into the future, our costs are going up 8-12 percent every year. Our revenue went up 4 percent last year and we did ticket increases. If we gain another 3 percent here, we’re meeting some of that in the middle.
“We have to forecast and look to the future.”