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Big 12, ESPN, Fox finally get deal done

Now we know why it took so long. BCS conference, lots of content to split up, two rightsholders. The Big12, ESPN and Fox finally announced their long-awaited TV deal on Friday.

The only surprise was that it took six months since CBSSports.com first reported the deal. The 13-year deal (no surprise) runs through 2025 (no surprise) same as the length of the football playoff (no surprise) announced in June.

The $2.5 billion agreement basically formalizes and stablizes the Big 12 as a league. Included in the deal is a 13-year grant-of-rights that essentially binds the 10 teams together. If any of the teams were to leave for another conference over the term of the agreement, the conference would retain the TV rights.

In other words -- barring extraordinary circumstances -- the Big 12 isn't breaking up anytime soon. (Texas Tech's board has not approved the grant of rights but that is considered a formality.)

"Many were concerned we were going to come off the rails at a point in time," said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

"Stability is the significance of it," he said on the conference's website. "It's also the appearance of stability."

This is first time every Big 12 game has been shown on a national package. There will be a minimum of 25 nationally-televised conference games per year on ABC, Fox, ESPN and FX.

Bowlsby added there is "no active agenda for expansion at this time."

"I believe a period of calm would be advantageous for us and college football," he said.

There is a pre-determined "look-in" clause in the contract that is boiler plate in most deals. In fact, it was one of the first agreements reached in the contract six months ago. That look-in, though, does not specifically have to deal with expansion.

Since the first reporting of the deal in March, the hang-up was ESPN and Fox dividing the games. Fox was rewriting a deal first signed in 2011. ESPN extended its deal. The two giants have been haggling all these months over which network would get the best games and how many.

If you haven't noticed, the newest trend in the industry is the sharing of TV rights. The Pac-12 has ESPN and Fox as partners. The NCAA went with CBS and Turner on its new basketball tournament deal. The Big East may well use at least two partners for its new TV deal.

What this deal means is the consumer is going to see more Big 12 football – well, relatively, there are only 10 teams now – on different platforms. Summary: Have your remote and channel guide handy. There are going to be a lot of games on a lot of channels.

--Big Fox (the broadcast, over-the-air version) gets a minimum of six games per year. The first of several prime-time games on Saturday night will be Sept. 22, Fox officials said. Best guess for that first game: Kansas State at Oklahoma. The Pac-12 will be the other prime-time occupant with the Big 12.

--Fox gets “enhanced selections” through 2015. Guess that means first pick. ESPN and Fox will rotate game selections beginning in 2016.

--The networks will share “TV Everywhere” rights (tablets, smart phones, apps, etc.).

The deal is worth approximately $20.3 million per school per year.

"I think the Big 12 will be the envy of some leagues in terms of distributable revenue," Bowlsby said.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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