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Big 12 announces a big TV deal

By Blair Kerkhoff, The Kansas City Star –

The Big 12’s revival is complete.

With Friday’s announcement of a contract with ESPN and Fox Sports Media Group that’s been in the works for months, the conference that appeared to be “headed off the rails” — as commissioner Bob Bowlsby once said — has solidified its future.

The deal allows contracts with ESPN and Fox to run concurrently for 13 years through 2024-25, and, although dollar figures weren’t announced, sources have confirmed an approximate $2.6 billion price tag.

That breaks down to about $20 million annually for each of the 10 members and puts the Big 12 in the high-rent district of major conferences.

The news also gave the conference a public pronouncement of a position it has held since adding West Virginia and TCU late last year — that the Big 12 would not only survive but be in good shape in the future.

During the last few weeks, Bowlsby has toured Big 12 schools, touting the league’s strength and insisting the TV agreement, along with the 13-year grant of rights to ensure conference security, was imminent.

“What it does is it gives us a very public and very business-oriented commitment to one another,” Bowlsby said. “We’re going to be partners for a long, long time.”

Bowlsby said the grant of rights was unanimously agreed upon but the Texas Tech Board of Regents has to formally approve the measure at a meeting next week.

The TV deal received approval from the Big 12 Board of Directors on a 6:30 a.m. conference call Friday, and Bowlsby spoke of the contract with reporters at Oklahoma State, where his tour continued.

“This will provide for the Big 12 conference unprecedented national exposure,” Bowlsby said.

Have your remote ready. Big 12 games will be broadcast on several networks: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU,, Fox, FX, Fox College Sports and Fox Sports Digital.

Fox is becoming a bigger player in college football with agreements with the Pac-12 and Big 12 and will give the leagues national exposure on Saturdays.

“We’re in the big event business,” said Larry Jones, Fox Sports vice president. “Saturday afternoons and nights are very important to us. This new deal gives us stronger picks and parity (with ESPN) in selecting games.”

The first prime-time broadcast for Fox is Sept. 22, and although the network didn’t announce the game, some websites have identified Kansas State at Oklahoma as a national broadcast, with Texas at Oklahoma State in the same time slot the next weekend.

Fox also is becoming involved with Big 12 schools’ third-tier rights. Oklahoma has announced Sooner Sports TV, with programming delivered on existing Fox Sports channels.

The network has said it is negotiating with other Big 12 schools for third-tier rights, which include broadcasting a nonconference football game, some nonconference men’s basketball games and many Olympic sports.

The Big 12 is unique nationally in allowing its schools to own and monetize those rights. In other conferences such as the Big Ten, the conference owns the rights. Texas receives $15 million annually from ESPN, which operates The Longhorn Network.

Kansas’ third-tier rights, which include the radio network, corporate sponsorship and signage in stadiums and arenas, are held by IMG College and worth about $6 million annually to the Jayhawks.

Those rights at Kansas State, K-State Sports Properties, were worth about $3.4 million to the Wildcats last year.

Both Kansas and Kansas State football games last weekend were broadcast on the schools’ third-tier package, the Jayhawk TV network for KU and for the Wildcats.

The new Big 12 deal, announced on the 33rd anniversary of ESPN’s launching, will increase that network’s coverage of men’s basketball by 10 games for national distribution. It also locks up a Big Monday slot for the next 13 years, and allows schools to retain a minimum of four games for their third-tier rights.

“Basketball was a very important component for us,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president for sports programming.

Bowlsby said the deal doesn’t have an impact on expansion plans. It is not a front-burner issue for the conference.

“The Big 12 will be the envy of some leagues around issues of distributed revenue,” Bowlsby said. “I think that it’s important that we constantly look for ways to fortify our conferences so that none of our members think about leaving, and so that we might be envied and attractive to others.

“We have a lot going for us, and we ought to be slow to share that.”

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