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Fox will get rights for four years

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 1998.

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 contract.

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.