MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – New Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is now 1-0 in media rights negotiations.
According to the Sports Business Journal’s Michael Smith and John Ourand, the conference yesterday agreed with ESPN and FOX on a new six-year media rights deal valued at nearly $2.3 billion, with an annual average of $380 million.
The conference has two years left on its current deal, which includes Texas and Oklahoma, with an annual average of $220 million over the final two years. The extension starts in 2025-26 and runs until 2030-31.
When adding in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and expected additional revenue from the College Football Playoff from an expanded field, individual league members could increase their potential annual revenue from about $42 million this past year to more than $50 million per school when the new deal begins .
This is significantly more than current schools expected a year ago after Texas and Oklahoma announced they would make the jump to the SEC after the 2024-25 season. Former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Texas lawmakers last year that the Big 12 stood to lose as much as 50% of its media rights revenue when Texas and Oklahoma left the conference.
So from that perspective, the Big 12’s new media rights deal is a major victory for a league that dealt what industry experts considered a destabilizing blow with the imminent departures of its two bellwether schools.
Next year, the Big 12 will add BYU, Houston, Central Florida and Cincinnati, giving the conference three of the four major time zones with Yormark indicating his willingness to expand into the West Coast time zone if expansion candidates are, in his words, “additive.”
According to The Athletic and Sports Illustrated, the new media rights agreement is expected to include a pro rata clause, which would increase revenue for any additional schools.
Yormark chose to convince the networks to begin negotiating an extension two years earlier when the Pac-12 was unable to get a favorable deal earlier this fall and opted to take its media rights inventory to the open market.
The Pac-12, which will lose USC and UCLA to the Big Ten Conference, is hoping to land a more lucrative deal by including non-linear entities like Amazon and Apple in the equation. That’s risky considering Amazon just got into live sports programming with its weekly Thursday night NFL coverage.
ESPN’s interest in the Pac-12 will now be closely watched, according to ESPN.com college football reporter Pete Thamel.
Yormark has indicated he is also interested in the 12 pursuing additional revenue opportunities through what he calls “tentpole” events outside of the Big 12 Football Championship and the men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City. What these stand-alone “tentpole” events are remains unknown.
From an individual school perspective, the biggest benefit is an increase in annual revenue, even with the additional four schools sharing the pie. This solidifies the immediate future of the Big 12, and by choosing a six-year deal instead of a longer deal, the conference’s media rights will go back on the market before the current SEC and ACC deals expire.
If Yormark can continue his goal of growing the Big 12’s national brand, he hopes that bodes well for the league when it resumes negotiations in 2031.
Another advantage is that the Big 12 maintains a large presence with traditional linear broadcasters. Industry experts believe it’s a safer bet than potentially uploading unproven streaming services. Would Amazon, Apple or other streaming services throw a lot of money at the Big 12 for their live events?
But on a personal basis, Thursday Night Football on Amazon isn’t quite compelling enough for me to buy an Amazon subscription. Will sports fans continue to pay multiple subscription fees to watch live sports events on different platforms? That remains to be seen, especially in today’s uncertain economy.
Amazon, Apple and other potential streaming services also can’t market the Big 12 the way industry leaders ESPN and FOX can, which would make a move from them to other platforms even more risky.
Another factor that played a role in the current Big 12 media rights deal is the success of men’s basketball over the past four or five years as the nation’s No. 1-ranked conference. The Big 12 has produced two national champions in the last three years in Baylor and Kansas, a runner-up in Texas Tech in 2019, and the league wisely celebrated that success, especially with FOX, which is eager to increase its men’s basketball presence.
So the net of this is positive news for the remaining Big 12 schools and for Yormark, whose goal when he took over in August was to calm the waters by negotiating a new media rights deal.
Now all eyes turn west to see what happens with the Pac-12.