Last year at this time the Big 12 seemed on the verge of death. Nebraska and Colorado were leaving, and there was a possibility that both Texas and Oklahoma were going to bolt to the new Pac-10 with Colorado. Instead, commissioner Dan Beebe was able to keep the league together by promising larger television revenues, and allowing schools to retain a large portion of their media rights. A decision which helped keep Texas in the fold, and allowed others to follow suit. Texas then used that decision to launch its own television network, and Oklahoma will soon be doing the same.
But what of the other eight remaining schools in the conference? What about their television deal? Well, according to the Sports Business Journal, the Big 12 is nearing a new television deal with Fox.
The Big 12 and Fox are close to finalizing a long-term deal that will pay the 10-team league more than $60 million a year, well up from the $20 million it now receives from its cable contract, industry sources say.
Fox, meanwhile, has been in discussions with eight of the league’s schools about establishing a conference-specific channel for a handful of football games, up to 60 basketball games and Olympic sports. The channel would not include programming from the University of Texas, which has partnered with ESPN on a new Longhorns channel, or the University of Oklahoma, which is planning its own channel, as well.It's possible that the revenue could reach as much as $70 million a year. Which would still have the Big 12 behind the ACC, Big Ten and SEC as far as revenue is concerned, but is still a major improvement over where the league stands now. The Big 12's current deal with Fox runs through the 2011-2012 school year, but the new deal would run through 2022.
Of course, there is the question of what the new network will be called. Obviously, the logical choice would be the Big 12 Network, but considering that the network can't show Texas or Oklahoma games, no one is sure whether it can go that route just yet. More important than the name of the network, though, is what it could mean for scheduling within the league.
The new network would consist of third-tier games, and right now most of the third-tier games are non-conference games in September. Which would leave the programming slate pretty light in October or November. So it's likely that the Big 12 may begin playing conference games earlier in the schedule in order to spread out non-conference games to be televised later in the season.