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Barstool Sports to stream Arizona Bowl after expansive rights acquisition

Digital media company also named college football bowl game's exclusive title sponsor.

28 July 2021 Ed Dixon
  • Barstool takes over from CBS Sports as Arizona Bowl’s broadcaster on multi-year deal
  • Arizona Bowl to stream on Barstool website, app and social media channels
  • CEO Erika Nardini hails “watershed moment” for rethinking where and how games are broadcast

US digital media company Barstool Sports has made the move into the college sports broadcast rights market after agreeing a deal with the Arizona Bowl that also includes exclusive title sponsorship.

The multi-year deal sees New York-headquartered Barstool take over from CBS Sports as the broadcast distributor, with the postseason college football bowl game moving off linear television.

CBS had held the rights to the Arizona Bowl since 2017, having taken over the contract from Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Barstool’s deal will see it stream the Arizona Bowl on its website, app and social media channels. It marks the first time the company will broadcast live college football, with Barstool president Dave Portnoy adding the agreement “marks our first real foray into acquiring TV sports rights”.

As title sponsor of the Arizona Bowl, Barstool Sports is also promising an entire week of festivities leading up to this year’s game, which is scheduled to take place on 31st December. Last year’s game was sponsored by real estate agency Offerpad.

“We really believe that what we can do is take the best of traditional broadcast and take the best of traditional sponsorship and do both in a brand new way,” Barstool chief executive Erika Nardini told Sportico.

“We think we’ll bring new fans. We know we will bring a level of energy, and we’ll cover the game in a way that is completely unique, and uniquely Barstool.”

Nardini also pointed out that the Arizona Bowl deal had initially only started out as a straight sponsorship until discussions turned to distribution “by virtue of the sponsorship”.

“It became clear our title sponsorship would have an implication on where the Arizona Bowl could be broadcast,” Nardini added, with Sportico noting Barstool’s complicated history with certain networks, including ESPN. That prompted the title sponsor to instead offer its services as the new media partner.

“There’s no reason we can’t play in the broadcast space, the sponsorship space and the comedy or personality and opinion space,” said Nardini, who was named as one of SportsPro’s ten influencers for 2021.

“Obviously, we want to make sure we do it right and do it well, but this is a watershed moment for rethinking where and how games are broadcast.”

Barstool had already thrown its weight behind college sports with the recent launch of Barstool Athletics Inc. The new division will partner with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes as ambassadors, following the shake up to name, image and likeness (NIL) regulations in various US states at the start of July.

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