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Big 12 negotiating media rights deal worth at least $2.6 billion

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By Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy

The Big 12 is negotiating a new media rights deal with ABC/ESPN and Fox that would be worth at least $2.6 billion or $20 million annually per school, television industry sources told CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy.

The Big 12’s current deal with ESPN/ABC doesn’t expire until 2016, but the conference and networks have been negotiating what is being termed an extension. The 13-year deal worth is expected to be worth at least $200 million annually through 2025. The deal is expected to "sync up" with a $1.2 billion, 13-year deal signed with Fox in April. That would mean the ABC/ESPN extension would be worth approximately $1.4 billion.

What is not immediately clear is if there is also an extension of the conference’s grant of media rights. The schools agreed in September to a six-year grant of rights. That means if any school left for another conference during that time period, the conference would still own the school’s TV rights.

Nevertheless, the negotiation signifies that the Big 12 is showing signs of long-term stability. In that April deal, Fox paid for the Big 12’s secondary broadcast rights in football and basketball. The new deal is for 18-20 top tier games per year according to industry sources. This new deal is based on a 10-team league and sources said it could be worth even more per school if the Big 12 expands to 11 or 12 teams. The Big 12 lost Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC last year, but replaced them with West Virginia and TCU. For the moment, the Big 12 is on the same plane financially as the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12. All 46 schools make close to or more than $20 million per year from their primary media rights agreements. ACC schools make less.

The Big 12’s proposed deal would compare favorably with the Pac-12, which signed a $250 million-a-year deal with ESPN and Fox. That breaks down to about $21 million a school. Pac-12 sources have claimed since last year that when its new network ramps up after launching in the fall, its schools will be making more than $30 million per year.

The SEC plans to reopen its contract to negotiate more rights fees with ESPN with the addition of Missouri and A&M. The same is occurring in the ACC with the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. In May 2010, the ACC signed a deal worth $155 million annually, while the SEC’s media rights deal with ESPN/ABC and CBS is worth about $205 million a year.

The Big Ten is expected to hit it big when its primary rights deal with ESPN expires in 2016. The Big East is hoping to also get a huge media rights deal in the next year. The Big East’s current $36 million deal with ESPN/ABC and CBS expires after the 2012-13 basketball season and the 2013-14 football season. The league rejected a $1.4 billion deal last year from ESPN, sources told CBSSports.com.

The Big 12 has come close to breaking up twice in the last 21 months. Both times Oklahoma and Texas flirted with joining the Pac-12. In June 2010, Fox and ESPN guaranteed their payouts would stay the same even as the league shrunk to 10 teams. In September, the Pac-12 presidents basically rejected Texas and Oklahoma after seeing the Big 12’s internal squabbles.

The Sports Business Journal quoted an ESPN spokesman as saying its current deal with the Big 12 has four more years to go and, “there's nothing beyond that,” at the moment.

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