The Big 12 Conference's lucrative, 13-year television agreement announced on September 7 was driven by football. But make no mistake: Big 12 basketball was a major player in the negotiations with ESPN and FOX Sports Media Group.
During six months of back-and-forth negotiating and contract rewrites, both media giants made it clear that they wanted as much Big 12 basketball programming as possible.
"The fact that ESPN and FOX were clamoring for additional men's basketball inventory further demonstrates the value that they place on having Big 12 basketball in their programming schedule," said Tim Allen, Big 12 Senior Associate Commissioner. He also noted that the Big 12 was the first conference to receive three dedicated days of telecasts on ESPN (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday).
The new agreement increases the number of televised games from 95 to 105 while also significantly increasing exposure. The Big 12 is guaranteed to have 30 conference games receive national exposure on ESPN and its platforms, plus an additional 13 games which can be Conference or non-conference matchups (ESPN has the right to sub-license games to CBS which annually secures between six and 12 Big 12 appearances.) Also, up to an additional 40 games can be placed on ESPNU.
A game at Oklahoma State was the first televised by ESPNU and the Big 12 has worked with ESPN to help grow the network that is devoted to college sports. Along those lines, the Big 12 was involved with the development of Big Monday telecasts on ESPNU that started last season. Those telecasts broadened exposure and were a ratings hit for the network while giving the Conference 13 exposures on a night with limited college games.
ESPN continues to grow its digital platform ESPN3 and the Big 12 will be involved with that as well. The new contract calls for up to six games possibly being aired on the digital network.
The third-tier or institutionally controlled outlets will also be enhanced by the new contract. Through a cooperative effort between ESPN and FOX, third-tier packages can be more broadly distributed. Before, those third-tier broadcasts - whether they were delivered by traditional television or by digital transmission - were primarily limited to distribution only in the home state of the two participating Big 12 teams.
For instance, a Kansas State game airing on K-StateHD.TV can now be televised on FOX Sports Midwest plus other regional networks. So, if the Wildcats were playing Marshall that game could air on both FOX Sports Midwest and/or ROOT Sports television, which is distributed in West Virginia. Or a game with Minnesota could air in the Midwest and FOX Sports North.
"The potential is there for all Big 12 basketball games to be distributed nationally," Allen said. "By enhancing delivery of games airing on the institutionally controlled level, you want to make sure your fans can find the games, wherever those fans are.
"There are a variety of delivery options and increasing that access helps reach fans on the local and the national level. It also helps coaches with recruiting."
While most of the attention regarding the Big 12's new television agreements was focused on football and financial awards, it's apparent that men's basketball exposure will also receive a significant boost that will help the Conference and its member schools well into the future.