The Nebraska athletic department has found a new partner for its multimedia rights. The Huskers—who brought their multimedia rights operation in-house in July 2021—has reached an agreement with Playfly. The agreement guarantees Nebraska $18 million per year over the 15-year term and the total value could exceed $300 million.
Per the agenda for the Board of Regents meeting Sept. 30, when the board will vote on the new agreement, Nebraska is guaranteed $273.6 million in revenue payments, $7.5 million as a signing bonus, $6 million in capital investments and a $5.5 million digital suite (including web and app support). Royalties on the deal are estimated at $6 million.
The agreement comes after Nebraska originally agreed to a separate deal with JMI this past spring, but it fell apart a month after the announcement. That deal was for $215 million over 12 years.
Prior to bringing its multimedia rights in-house, Nebraska partnered with Learfield/IMG. It was a relationship that spanned 15 years—it began in 2006—and reportedly paid Nebraska $72 million over the final six years of the contract.
Pending approval, Nebraska would begin to transition its in-house operations to Playfly over a nine-month period beginning Oct. 1.
Why is Nebraska handing its multimedia rights back over to a partner, versus keeping it in-house? There are a couple of key reasons. First, while Nebraska was able to control its own production and revenue potential, the university also had to handle the salaries and overhead to make that possible.
Also, there were limitations with name, image and likeness with Nebraska runnings its own operations. While the Huskers would not be able to pay its own athletes for interviews and appearances, a third-party—like Playfly—is able to do that.
“One of the things that’s been, as you all know, an interesting challenge for all of us in athletics is dealing with NIL,” athletic director Trev Alberts said on Thursday. “As a third party partner here, (Playful) has been great at working with us on some creative ways to help fund and to provide some resources to that.
“So part of this agreement is $2.25 million to help support NIL efforts within our department and our student-athletes, which is really good.”
As for the internal employees that currently work for Nebraska, they will transition to Playfly in the coming weeks.
“There’s going to be an intermediate sort of phase between October 1st and the end of the fiscal year and that was important to us that our team be given an opportunity to remain in their role,” Alberts said.
Alberts added that while he doesn’t yet know how it will look, he hopes that Playfly will be “highly ingrained” into the overall structure of Nebraska’s athletic department. He expects the offices to be at Nebraska and for content to reside on Huskers.com.
“At the end of the day, we are wholly invested in with them in doing the best that we can to help them be successful,” Alberts said. “The more successful the partnership is the more successful we are, because beyond the guarantee, eventually we’re going to get 80% of every additional dollar.”
That’s especially key for Nebraska. Once the Huskers hit the guarantee, the revenue share increases from 72% to 80% for every dollar earned.
Alberts said the deal, from his understanding, is one of the most lucrative multimedia rights deal in the country right now. He added that Nebraska does want to protect itself long-term with the deal—Nebraska will have a “look in” with Playfly in Year 9 to evaluate the contract—and more details about those protections will come to light after the Board of Regents approves the partnership.
For now, Alberts—as well as Nebraska chancellor Ronnie Green and University of Nebraska president Ted Carter—are pleased with the innovation of Playfly. Alberts specifically pointed toward the opportunity to look at the multimedia rights space differently, especially with Playfly founder and CEO Michael Schreiber having experience with NBC Universal and Comcast.
“He’s very aggressive, very innovative and a different thinker and I’m drawn to that,” Albert said. “I think that can really well position us in the future.”
Other news and notes:
>> Memorial Stadium was built in 1923, which means the stadium will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. As a result, Nebraska is looking at the future of Memorial Stadium and how it can be set up for success in the next 50-100 years.
Carter said that Nebraska is currently in the plan to make a plan for the future. That means Carter, alongside Green and Alberts, are looking to obtain a waiver authority from the Board of Regents to begin seeking pieces like a program manager, designer, architect, construction team, etc. They are also want to begin looking at the scope of what fundraising for this project will entail.
“Our point of this is that we’re not looking to go to the state, the taxpayers,” Carter said. “This is going to be done and scoped with philanthropy, with some potential in-house borrowing.
“We don’t have any details of that. There won’t be any diagrams to show you. This is just about an agreement to start the planning process. Normally we start that that with a program statement and then the rest of those things follow. We need to have that detail done first before we bring a program statement.”
Nebraska fans can expect to see the beginning of the plans one year from now, which will time up with the 100th anniversary of the stadium.
>> Pinnacle Bank Arena will sell alcohol—beer, wine and liquor—starting this year for Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball games, pending approval from the Board of Regents. The decision to do so will serve as a “pilot program” for the next two years and will be evaluated at the end of next season.
Nebraska will get 10% of the net revenue from alcohol sales, and the athletic department estimates it will earn approximately $100,000 from the deal.
For now, this does not include any other Nebraska venues—like Haymarket Park—but that doesn’t mean it won’t be addressed at a later time.
“We’re having those conversations. We’re working on it,” Alberts said. “You look at Memorial Stadium. We don’t have point of sale or we don’t have the WiFi necessary. It would be an abject failure.”
>> On the coaching search front, Alberts confirmed that Nebraska is working with Collegiate Sports Associates in its search. While Alberts did not want to say much on the current state of the coaching search beyond that, he did say he has gotten positive feedback about Nebraska so far. He also reiterated that not everything shared about the search is accurate at this point.
“You know, we have so much going for us and it’s been really, really good,” Alberts said. “I will say most of the stuff that I’ve read on Twitter, I don’t know if I’ve seen anything that’s accurate on Twitter. I’m serious. I have not yet read anything that I would say is accurate, but it’s all good.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.