Payne said Cary and IMG College President Ben Sutton Jr. are longtime acquaintances.
They both started out as sports media entrepreneurs in North Carolina. Sutton founded ISP Sports, which was purchased by IMG, a global sports media conglomerate, in 2010. Cary founded a Charlotte, N.C.-based company called Creative Sports, which syndicated televised coverage of college football and basketball games. Cary sold the company to ESPN in 1994.
Payne said it makes sense for West Virginia Media to partner with IMG.
West Virginia Media already produces weekly television shows for WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen and men's basketball coach Bob Huggins. The Charleston-based media company also televised WVU's Blue-Gold football scrimmage in April.
West Virginia Media owns four television stations in the state, and publishes the State Journal newspaper.
"They have a leg up because they have television stations throughout the state and because of all the resources and capital they have," Payne said.
Nine companies bid on the WVU media rights contract.
Payne said West Virginia Media would have tried to partner with the other companies, if IMG hadn't won the contract.
He said IMG College subcontracts with smaller media companies on its media contracts with other universities across the U.S.
IMG partners with Bristol Broadcasting on a contract with Marshall University, he said.
"IMG just acts as the clearinghouse," Payne said Thursday.
Payne said he held a major stake in West Virginia Media until last year, when the company paid off a loan from him. He said he now has "less than $500,000" invested in West Virginia Media.
"It's not a major part of my investment portfolio," said Payne, who also is president of Payne-Gallatin Co. and Horse Creek Land & Mining Co. "West Virginia Media doesn't even pay a dividend. We haven't gotten a dividend in 10 years."
Payne said that WVU was one of only two universities -- the other being Michigan State University -- that didn't have a third-tier media rights partner.
"We've let everybody else figure this out and get it right," Payne said. "We're the last one to do it. I care about the university, and I'm for anything that will make it better."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.