The Professional Collegiate League, a group challenging the NCAA with a college basketball structure that pays its players, has secured a media deal for its inaugural season, which will be played outside of Washington, D.C.
The eight-team league will show its games on cable through Next Level Sports and Entertainment, a linear network with distribution through DirecTV, U-Verse, Verizon and others, and online through its digital affiliate, For the Fans.
Though there’s no up-front cash changing hands, there’s a revenue sharing portion of the agreement, according to someone familiar with the deal. That includes money from ads, digital subscriptions and technology around sports betting.
The challenge for the PCL will be to break through in the increasingly crowded world of smaller basketball entities, like TBT, Big3 and others trying to shake up the market for young, elite players. With the NCAA facing mounting legal, political and social pressure to better compensate its players, a host of new options are emerging for that required year between high school and NBA eligibility.
In addition to making money overseas, top prospects can now join the NBA’s development league for a season or spend the entire year training thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals. (Digital media company Overtime is even starting a paid league for high schoolers.)
The PCL plans to launch with somewhere between 80 to 96 players (some team brands and coaches have already been announced). The players will be paid a salary as high as $150,000 and be allowed to sign marketing deals, in addition to receiving a scholarship to attend college locally.
The PCL is simultaneously in the market to sign players, and to raise money. The group hopes to have two or three seasons’ worth of expenses in hand by the time it launches later this year, so it’s targeting $40-$50 million. Those numbers have come down because of the single-city inaugural season, which is going to cost $8-$12 million, instead of the original expectation of $18-$25 million.
In addition to the revenue sharing in this media deal, the PCL hopes to make money via ticket sales, sponsorships and group licensing.
The inaugural season will be held entirely in Prince George’s County, Md., right outside of Washington D.C., to avoid travel concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the future teams will fan out to locations nearby, such as Baltimore and Charlotte.