The Big 12 is about to extend its current TV contract with ESPN and Fox, according to ESPN sources.
The league is in the final stages of extending a six-year, $2.28 billion contract that includes a significant increase in school salaries. The new contract, beginning in 2025, includes ESPN owning more than 60 percent of the stock and adding Fox a significant portion of college basketball.
The contract about to be completed was first reported by Sports Business Journal.
The deal expects the Big 12 to generate a sharp increase in media revenue for each school, despite the absence of Oklahoma and Texas in the league after the 2024 season. A source said the league is expected to agree to grant rights to its 12 members for the duration of the deal.
The total value of the Big 12 media deal is expected to rise from $220 million annually to $380 million. That’s an average increase in media-only revenue per school from $22 million to $31.7 million ($380 million now divided 12 ways with the addition of BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston).
The new deal will represent a slight increase in Big 12’s total distribution number, which currently stands at $42.6 million per school. This number is subject to a myriad of variables such as NCAA Championship units, bowl revenue, and new College Football Playoff revenue.
It is safe to expect total revenue for each school to increase to approximately $50 million starting in 2025-26. That number could be much higher depending on the money made by the 12-team College Football Playoff.
“I think it positions the Big 12 as a continuing player in college athletics,” said a source from the Big 12. “It makes it a really viable entity and maintains its strong position in college athletics and among the Power 5 conferences.”
Former Big 12 commissioner Bob Paulsby told Texas lawmakers in August 2021 that the league could get 50 percent media revenue in the wake of the departures of Oklahoma and Texas.
This move to expand with the Big 12’s existing television partners is a byproduct of new Commissioner Brett Yormark’s aggressive push since taking office and declaring Big 12 “open for business”.
This summer, Yormark made a creative maneuver for the league to reach out to existing TV partners nearly a year and a half before the exclusive negotiating window opened. The league announced its intention to get involved on August 31 and now has a framework for a deal older than the Pac-12, although the Pac-12 is on the open market with its deal expiring at the end of next season.
“With the two schools relocating abroad and the introduction of four, it provides stability for the conference,” said the 12 senior sources. “Obviously, it increases revenue.”
The Big 12 chose not to go to the open market, a move that did not expose the league to outside bidders and could have made more money for the Big 12 in the long run. But it gives the league security and visibility over traditional platforms.
ESPN’s increased investment in the league will give it access to both the largest number of inventories and the best league games. According to a report by SBJ, the ESPN package called “A” includes the four top football picks each season and 12 of the top 20 games. This gives Fox a large portion of the solid stock of the 26 football games it has each year. According to SBJ, ESPN has won the Big 12 soccer championship and the men’s and women’s basketball championships.
Along with significant investment and commitment in Big 12 football, Fox is adding Big 12 basketball to the package. The Big 12 has been the top men’s basketball conference in the country in recent seasons, with Kansas and Baylor winning the past two national titles and Texas Tech losing the championship title in overtime in 2019.
Steady revenue from NCAA League Championship units should continue to exist given the recent strong basketball history of Houston, Cincinnati and BYU.
The near completion of the deal will shift focus to Pac-12, which reports have linked to Amazon as a potential partner. With Fox arriving at the USC and UCLA Games via a Big Ten deal, he was only loosely tied to the Pac-12. ESPN’s level of interest in the league in the wake of this commitment will be closely monitored.
The Big 12 deal will expire in 2031, one year after the record-setting Big Ten deal expires. Notably, for the Big 12 going forward, the contract is being rolled out before the SEC (2034) and ACC (2036) deals expire. This extension would mark the end of what are known as the third level rights of the Big 12, where schools controlled a certain stock of games. Instead, the third-level rights will be distributed to ESPN, meaning schools no longer have to sell them.
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