Big 12 reaches six-year, $2.28B TV extension with ESPN, Fox

According to ESPN sources, the Big 12 is about to renew its current TV contracts with ESPN and Fox.

The league is in the final stages of a six-year, $2.28 billion contract extension that includes a big pay raise for the school. The new contract, which starts in 2025, includes ESPN owning more than 60% of its inventory, while Fox adds a sizable chunk of college basketball.

Sports Business Journal first reported the near-completion of the contract.

Although Oklahoma and Texas are no longer in the league after the 2024 season, the deal expects the Big 12 to significantly increase each school’s net-media revenue. The league is expected to agree to its 12 members to grant rights over the term of the deal, one of the sources said.

The total value of Big 12 media deals is expected to increase from $220 million to $380 million annually. Media-only revenue per school increased on average from $22 million to $31.7 million (plus BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston, $380 million now split 12 ways).

The new agreement will mark an increase in the Big 12’s overall distribution volume, which currently stands at $42.6 million per school. That number is influenced by myriad variables, such as NCAA tournament units, bowl earnings, and new college football playoff earnings.

Starting in 2025-26, total revenue per school is expected to increase to nearly $50 million. That number is likely to be even larger, depending on the funding provided by the 12-team college football playoffs.

“I think that positions the Big 12 as a continuing player in college sports,” a Big 12 source said. “That makes it a really viable entity and keeps it strong in college sports and the Power 5 conference.”

Former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Texas lawmakers in August 2021 that the league’s media revenue could suffer a 50 percent cut after Oklahoma and Texas leave blow.

The move to expand with the Big 12’s current TV partners is a byproduct of the aggressive push by new commissioner Brett Yormark since he took office and announced the Big 12 was “open.”

This summer, nearly a year-and-a-half before the exclusive negotiating window opened, Yomark creatively put the league in touch with current TV partners. The league announced its intention to participate on August 2. Although the Pac-12 is on the open market and its deal expires at the end of next season, it now has an earlier trading framework than the Pac-12.

“It provides stability for the conference as two schools and four transitions,” the Big 12 source said. “And it obviously increases revenue.”

The Big 12 opted not to enter the public market, a move that would not expose the league to outside bidders and could result in more money for the Big 12 in the long run. But it provides alliances with the security and visibility found on traditional platforms.

ESPN’s increased investment in the league will give it access to the most inventory and the league’s top games. ESPN’s so-called “A” package includes each season’s top four football picks and 12 of the top 20 picks, according to SBJ. That gives Fox a sizable chunk of the 26 annual football games played. ESPN won the Big 12 soccer championship and the men’s basketball championship, according to SBJ.

In addition to a significant investment and commitment to Big 12 football, Fox has added Big 12 men’s basketball to the mix. The Big 12 has been America’s top league in recent seasons, with Kansas and Baylor winning the past two national championships and Texas Tech losing in overtime in 2019.

Given the recent strong basketball history of Houston, Cincinnati and BYU, the league should continue to generate steady revenue from NCAA tournament units.

As the deal nears completion, the focus will shift to the Pac-12, with Amazon reportedly being a potential partner. Since Fox has access to USC and UCLA games through Big Ten deals, their ties to the Pac-12 are only loose. Following this commitment, ESPN’s level of interest in the league will be closely watched.

The Big 12 deal expires in 2031, a year after the Big Ten record deal expires. Notably, for the Big 12 moving forward, the contract came before the SEC (2034) and the ACC (2036). While the Big 12 can’t compete with the SEC and Big Ten in revenue, that should put them in third place, with the Pac-12 trying to catch them with upcoming deals.

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