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NBC extends football contract through 2010

Andrew Soukup | Wednesday, January 14, 2004

For 13 years, every Notre Dame football home game has appeared on NBC. And thanks to a five-year extension announced Dec. 18, that trend will continue at least through 2010.Although University and NBC officials declined to say how much the school will receive annually, various news agencies reported the deal is worth $9 million annually.”We’re extremely pleased to augment what continues to be a very special relationship with NBC Sports,” Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said in a statement. “The ability to have our home football games telecast on a national basis becomes a tremendous vehicle for us in maintaining a national visibility and platform in terms of our football program’s profile and recruiting.”In the past, the money from the NBC deal has been used to provide financial aid to students at the University. Associate athletic director John Heisler said he expected that trend to continue in the future.But the decision to renew its television deal should not necessarily be seen as a clear sign that Notre Dame will keep its football program independent, White said last month.”There’s not an immediate correlation of any kind between those two things,” White told the Associated Press. “We made a decision to extend our deal with NBC. We’re going to continue to monitor our choice. We haven’t made any decision.”Television ratings for Notre Dame home games have steadily declined in recent years. In 1993, when Notre Dame last seriously contended for a national championship, 6.2 million households watched Notre Dame football games, according to data provided by Nielsen Media Research. But that number dropped to 2.6 million in 2003.The number of people who watch the Irish play on NBC appears to be tied to Notre Dame’s success. In the last six years, the Irish have had just three winning seasons. In those years – 1998, 2000 and 2002 – an estimated average of 3.1 million households watched NBC games. When Notre Dame has had a losing season, however, an average of just 2.6 million households have tuned in annually.Yet Ken Schanzer, the president of NBC Sports, told reporters last month that NBC believed if it didn’t renew the television deal, other networks would be more than willing to step in.The contract extension, coupled with other networks who consistently televise Irish away games, will help satisfy Notre Dame fans who have come to expect that the Irish will appear on television, Heisler said.”All of our fans have become spoiled to that, and the expectation has been that in some way, shape or form the game is going to be available,” Heisler said. “This will help to give that a chance to be reality on a daily basis.”Since 1991, a portion of the money generated from the NBC contract has been channeled into undergraduate scholarships for non-varsity athletes. The University says it has distributed more than $12.6 million in financial aid from this fund, and in 2003-04, 111 undergraduates are receiving an average of $17,600 from money from the NBC contract.The revenue from the television deal has been one major reason why Notre Dame says it is able to meet 100 percent of the financial needs of its students, Heisler said. “That’s a huge and underpublicized achievement,” Heisler said. “For the people in admissions and financial aid, that’s a big deal.”