You might think that with the Big 12 having lost a major media draw in Nebraska, lost its football championship game as part of its shrinkage to 10 teams, and possibly seeing some broadcasts of its biggest attraction siphoned off to Texas's (competitor-owned) Longhorn Network, now wouldn't be the time for the league to be striking it rich on the television contract front.
You would think wrong. Per the Sports Business Daily, the league is ready to announce an annual increase in its cable broadcast rights fees of approximately $70 million to $90 million, a 350 percent raise over the current $20 million. The new buyer? Same as the old buyer, Fox Sports.
But Fox is getting something for its money, at least:
The deal would have FSN double the number of football games it is allowed to carry, from 20 to more than 40. Fox also is keeping all digital and mobile rights to those games, and it would retain cable exclusivity for all Big 12 contests. That means that ESPN will be able to show Big 12 games only if it buys them in syndication from Fox. It also gives Fox flexibility to carry games on its other cable channels.It doesn't appear that the league's occasional ABC appearances will be affected. But given ESPN's now closer ties to the SEC and other leagues, it's not out of the question for new college football outlet FX to air more Big 12 games than ESPN.
That might not do as much for the league's exposure, but that may not be nearly as much a concern considering what Fox's offer will do for the league's bottom line. (And, of course, it's only speculation and the furthest thing from a certainty; until the contract is made public and the details on its week-to-week logistics made plain, how the league will continue to work with ESPN will remain a mystery.)
Commissioner Dan Beebe was roundly criticized during last year's realignment for claiming he'd be able to net the wounded conference the kind of TV money that would keep the league's heavy hitters safely in the fold, and -- more to the point -- the league solvent. Thanks to Fox's ever-increasing desire to become a major player in the world of college football, though, it appears it's Beebe having the last laugh.