A couple things I haven't missed writing or talking about over the past several months are one, conference expansion, and two, television contracts.
It was a good run while it lasted.
First, the details. The Sports Business Journal reported on Thursday the Big 12 is close to completing a nine year extension with ABC/ESPN for the league's first tier TV rights. That possible extension plus the four years remaining on the current deal would amend the agreement to run through the 2025 season.
The Big 12 recently completed a deal with Fox last April for its second tier rights which was worth a total of $1.2 billion and also ran for 13 years starting with the 2012 season. Combining the two deals, the new total TV package would then be worth between $2.5 and $2.6 billion depending on what the exact figures turn out to be, meaning the new ABC/ESPN deal would be worth about $1.2 - $1.3 billion by itself over the course of the 13 seasons.
The math on the new contract would work out to be just under $20 million per school annually. If you remember back when the Big 12 nearly imploded in the first go-around of conference realignment, then Commissioner Dan Beebe promised some of the schools they could make $20 million per year when the new TV deals were renegotiated if the stuck around, of course. They approached that number with the Fox deal in April, and if these reports turn out to be accurate, they'll be there with the redone first tier rights package.
The biggest difference between now and then, however, is the fact that the Big 12 has agreed to split its revenue equally (I'm guessing TCU is really, really happy to be going to the Big 12). Texas will be getting the same amount as Texas Tech who will be getting the same amount as Kansas. (The third-tier rights still would belong to the school. The Longhorn Network has swimming meets to televise you know).
The SBJ article also mentioned that each Big 12 school would make $5 million more per year under the new contract. But keep in mind, the Big 12 schools have yet to see anything from the new Fox contract. Most had been pulling in revenue somewhere in the $8-12 million range from the conference which also included other revenue generating sources outside of just the TV contracts. Whether or not this extension gets finalized for the 2012 season, each school was already set for a sizable windfall in the coming year and this would just add to the pot.
So, what does it all mean? It's really too early to say until there's some sort official announcement from the Big 12 and more details become available.
It does raise some interesting questions, however.
First, why 13 years? On the surface, it seems like the advantage falls to the networks on this since they're able to lock in a price for 13 seasons. Sure, maybe they'll be overpaying in 2012, but who's to say what these TV rights will be worth in 3-4 years, not to mention what they could be worth in 13 years. Just think how things have changed over the past five years. Of course, maybe by 2025 we'll all be hovering over the stadiums in flying saucers watching the game and then all the networks will be screwed.
What does this mean for future expansion? The SBJ article noted the new deal could end any discussion of expanding back to 12 teams. I also saw in CBS Sports' report, the new deal could be worth even more if they expand to 11 or 12 teams so it's not exactly clear on this topic. Obviously if the Big 12 can't renegotiate by expanding, that would halt those talks right there since the schools aren't going to cut up the same pie into more pieces. I can't believe the conference would hamstring themselves like that, however. There's simply too many unknowns down the road.
Would this provide even more stability for the Big 12? It's tough to say although it surely doesn't hurt. The schools already agreed to a six year grant-of-rights to the Big 12. There's been no word on whether or not that would be extended to coincide with the new deal.
What does this mean for other conferences? It means they're going to get paid. The SEC and ACC are likely to redo their current deals since both leagues will soon be at 14 teams. The Big Ten's TV deal isn't up until 2016, but if the Big 12 is working on extension, I'm not sure why the Big Ten couldn't do the same thing, although that would preclude them from changing networks if that thought was even in their mind. The Pac-12 already has signed a $250 million deal with ESPN and Fox after the addition of Colorado and Utah.
It'll be more than interesting to see how this finally shakes out in regards to the timing and all the rest. Until then, there's not much more to go on although it appears on the surface the league would be on comparable terms with the other major conferenceces even with fewer teams and no conference championship game.