UND signs expansive television rights deal with Midco Sports
The parties agreed to a four-year, $2 million deal with a pair of two-year options that could extend the contract through the 2029-30 sports season.
GRAND FORKS — UND signed the most profitable and expansive media contract in the athletic department's history Thursday morning.
UND and Midco Sports agreed to a four-year contract worth $2 million for the school's television broadcast rights. The deal includes a pair of two-year options that could take the partnership through the 2029-30 sports season.
The $500,000 per year contract was a substantial monetary boost from UND's previous TV rights deals. In 2012, it signed a five-year deal worth $1 million ($200,000 per year) with Midco. In 2017, it extended that contract for another five years for $1.425 million ($285,000 per year).
The new contract also includes other major financial commitments.
Among them are a $500,000 donation to the Champions Club, $200,000 in upgraded broadcast equipment at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, $250,000 for a Midco Sports set and broadcast equipment in Ralph Engelstad Arena for pregame, postgame and intermission productions, $250,000 for upgraded production vehicles, $20,000 for a fiberoptic extension to Bronson Field for soccer broadcasts, $50,000 annually to employ UND students to assist in basketball and volleyball broadcasts and $100,000 annually in sponsorships.
"The opportunity to continue our television relationship with Midco Sports is something we could not be more excited about," UND athletic director Bill Chaves said. "Our past decade as partners has been really special but we believe that moving forward we both can bring UND athletics to another visibility level through all of Midco’s various platforms."
Midco Sports will provide the widest scope of coverage to date.
For the first time, it will be covering UND's Missouri Valley Football Conference road games. This is an option that wasn't available during UND's last TV contract, because it was a member of the Big Sky Conference, which gives exclusivity to home team broadcasts.
The MVFC does allow road teams to bring their broadcast partners unless it's the MVFC Game of the Week, which goes exclusively on an ESPN streaming platform. Every MVFC team is featured on the Game of the Week once per season.
This season, UND's appearance will be Week 2 against Northern Iowa in Grand Forks. In future years, UND and Midco are expected to push for UND's appearance to be a road game.
While Midco is attempting to broadcast all four road conference games this season — at Southern Illinois, Youngstown State, Indiana State and North Dakota State — the contract acknowledges schedule flexibility may be limited because the deal was finalized late in the summer.
"The goal is to telecast as many UND football games as possible, both home and away," the contract reads.
Midco Sports will now carry men's hockey pregame shows Friday nights before two-game home series. It will be hosted at a new set within Ralph Engelstad Arena. The location of the set has not yet been selected.
The contract also calls for Midco to broadcast 13 men's basketball, 13 women's basketball, six volleyball, six softball and four soccer games per year.
Midco also will produce behind-the-scenes shows for men's hockey ('Through These Doors') and football ('#DayByDay').
"We're very happy to continue the partnership with North Dakota," Midco Sports vice president Mark Powell said. "Over the past 10 years, we've built and developed a relationship that's been really strong. They're as good to us as we are to them."
Expanding to the Twin Cities
Midco Sports will expand its reach into the Twin Cities this season.
It has signed a contract to have an assigned channel on Comcast for cable subscribers in the Twin Cities.
"Gaining access to the Twin Cities via Comcast is really important," Powell said. "We're going to be able to showcase North Dakota athletics in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. It's a lot of fun to have new eyeballs and potential viewers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area."
Midco also is in talks with other cable companies to add Midco Sports to their cable lineups.
"We're in conversations with several others that I'll leave nameless for now," Powell said. "Should those deals come to fruition, we'll (have an announcement). We needed to get this UND contract done for people to believe they're going to have content."
Heinert, Shawn to lead on-air talent
The lead on-air play-by-play announcers for UND sports will be Alex Heinert and Brian Shawn.
Heinert will serve as the lead play-by-play announcer for UND men's hockey, which he's done since the 2016-17 season.
Shawn will be the lead for football and men's and women's basketball.
"I believe we are very fortunate to have the level of talent we do with Alex, Brian and others on our staff," Powell said. "I feel we have one of the best production teams all-around and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can all do in elevating their games for the fans across the region."