The deal that has long been rumored for the Big 12's new media rights contract became official on Friday with the Big 12's announcement that they've agreed to terms with ESPN and Fox Sports beginning with the 2012 football season.
The Big 12 will now distribute $200 million among its 10 members or $20 million per school on an annual basis. Not bad, not bad at all considering the past several seasons the schools in the conference had been pulling in somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-$12 million (keep in mind the Fox deal signed in April 2011 didn't kick in until this season so schools have yet to see any of that revenue).
The deal also allows Fox to received "enhanced selections" of games over the next four seasons as they ramp up their college football coverage on their over-the- air network.
"Because we are now on the broadcast network, it was important to us to be able to improve our game selections in the next couple years which we've done and it was important for ESPN to be able to put games on cable in the next couple years so it made sense for everybody. It was a win-win," said Larry Jones, COO for Fox Sports. "The conference is the biggest winner because now they have a bigger national platform for their games."
What all that means is that over the next four years, Fox will be given some priority in the selection process for its broadcast network while ESPN gains the right to distribute games through their cable networks (ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU) without any negotiations with Fox. Or in plain English - over the next four seasons -Fox will likely carry more of the high profile Big 12 games than will ABC or ESPN.
Previously ABC was able to pick all their games first and Fox then was left with the rest to distribute on FX or through their FSN networks.
Starting in 2016, Fox and ESPN will rotate years who picks first and will split the inventory going forward.
A couple other times worth noting:
How does this affect the Longhorn Network? Each school is allowed to retain the rights to one football game per season. You may have noticed that there are two currently scheduled (same as last year) for distribution on the channel in 2012. What's up with that?
After the first Texas game (the one UT is allowed), each game on the network counts toward the 19 games ESPN retains the rights to through 2015 (that number jumps to 23 in 2016). In essence, ESPN can choose which network it airs games on: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or the Longhorn Network. That works out rather nicely for Texas, I'd say.
I guess it also means that in theory at least, they could choose to put Kansas and Baylor, for example, on the Longhorn Network. I'm not sure what kind of say each school has in those matters, although it's doubtful such a scenario would exist, but I guess anything is possible.
What's more likely, however, is that ESPN chooses to put Texas and another conference member on the LHN. I'm guessing the framework is in place to deal with such occurrences, although no details were talked about during the Big 12 press conference Friday morning.
Of the 19 games on ABC/ESPN, somewhere between 13-15 have to be a national broadcast. ESPN also does not have to negotiate with Fox to put it on one of their cable channels.
Fox retains the rights to 38 games. A minimum of six of those broadcasts have to be on FOX and another six on a national cable outlet (FX).
There will be no more than four games selected in the 8:15 window during the season and no team will be required to play at that time more than twice in a season, nor on consecutive weekends.
Although they didn't go into details, there are stipulations in the contract regarding expansion and a future conference championship game should the Big 12 ever decided to go in that direction. Bob Bowlsby said those items were covered in the contract, but it was really a non-issue at the is point because the league only has 10 teams.
All things considered, it's a major upgrade for the Big 12 from an exposure standpoint since a lot of their games were usually seen on a regional basis on FSN. There will now be a minimum of 25 games seen nationally (13 on ABC/ESPN, 12 on Fox/FX).
The 13 year grant of rights will also be signed next week after Texas Tech's Board of Regents approves the deal which is seen as a mere formality. Going forward, should any team decided to leave the Big 12, their television revenue would stay with the Big 12.