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Big 12 Men's Basketball Television Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who owns the telecast rights for Big 12 men's basketball?

ESPN has purchased the first-selection rights for a minimum of 100 and maximum of 105 men's basketball games each season, plus all games in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship. This includes all games under the control of Big 12 schools (home and neutral sites within the Big 12 states), as well as the over-the-air network (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) of both home and away games. Once ESPN has selected games for telecast, the remaining games revert back to the member institutions for local or 'third-tier' rights packages.

Q. Can you explain the difference between network, cable and local packages?

An over-the-air network telecast refers to games on standard (non-cable) television. If you have 'rabbit-ears' or an outside antenna source on your dwelling you get the telecast free of charge from an over-the-air telecast. These are games typically carried on CBS, ABC, NBC or FOX as part of a national broadcast package...which of course are also carried by cable and satellite companies on local package deals. The network determines how wide-spread a game will be distributed. Typically a network will regionalize several games in one window and a Big 12 game will go to no less than 20 percent of the country; although we average about 50 percent coverage for each network telecast. Based upon the significance of the game it could be a true national telecast. ESPN may sublicense up to 20 appearances per year for games on an over-the-air network.

For the Big 12, a cable telecast refers to games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and/or ESPNEWS. Virtually all of these games are telecast nationally and the network must place at least 43 games on ESPN, ESPN2 or one of the over-the-air networks annually. The network does have the right to annually place 20 games on ESPNU and could reduce that number by placing up to six games on ESPN3. There are some restrictions on the number of times a team can appear on ESPN3 but fans need to understand that the Internet is a business model that is going to be tested – and the Big 12 will be part of that test.

Fans within the Big 12 states have also grown accustomed to watching games syndicated on the Big 12 Network, produced by ESPN Regional Television. Beginning with the 2014-15 season, the Big 12 Network games will no longer be produced - with all those games being shown on one of the ESPN Networks.

The quick breakdown is: ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS 38 games
  ESPNU 31 games
  ESPNEWS 15 games
  Third-Tier Packages 6 games

Institutions with local packages have the rights to distribute the remaining games on local or 'third-tier' packages via permitted member institution outlets. These telecasts are exclusive to the home team and may or may not be available in the visiting team’s television market (depending upon the distribution platform of the home team). These are done on a market-by-market basis or on a state-wide system of either over-the-air affiliates or regional cable systems and/or via the Internet.

Q. Can you explain the differences between linear and digital television?

In short, linear television is the traditional broadcast services from over-the-air and cable television. Digital television is Internet based delivery. ABC, FOX, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU are linear networks. ESPN3 is a digital platform. Each Big 12 institution has a digital network in some fashion.

Q. Why can’t I watch my favorite teams’ road game when it is on a third-tier package?

This gets a little complicated and there is no one-size fits all response. In 2013, it was agreed that Big 12 institutions had each sold rights to unselected games and that those rights were exclusive to the home team and by contract (with ESPN) could only be distributed on permitted member institution platforms. Those platforms would include a member institution branded outlet like dedicated 24/7 channels (Iowa State’s Cylcones.tv on Mediacom and Texas’ Longhorn Network) or a combination of in-state regional cable systems, over-the-air stations and/or digital platforms. Again, these rights pertain only to the home team and are limited to its state unless the platform is a 24/7 member institution branded outlet or a branded home team digital platform.

Q. How does ESPN Full Court and ESPN3 impact the Big 12 telecast schedule?

Some games are also carried on either ESPN Full Court and/or ESPN3. ESPN Full Court is a pay service available from the satellite providers and many cable systems. ESPN3 is distributed free to subscribers of many high speed Internet providers. In addition, ESPN Full Court is made available to all Big 12 school's third tier/local packages to provide bonus coverage outside of their state. Of course, the institutions’ must provide a telecast quality feed to ESPN Full Court for distribution. Due to exclusivity, most third-tier package games no longer appear on these outlets.

Q. Why did the Big 12 grant ESPN exclusivity in terms of telecast times and distribution of games?

Virtually every television negotiation starts off with the prospective rights holder desiring total exclusivity for all games. From there the two parties negotiate and compromise on telecast windows, distribution, number of games, finances and hundreds of other items. Two key issues for ESPN were the distribution of local package games and protecting their exclusive windows.

ESPN purchased the rights to be the exclusive national network for Big 12 basketball and thereby does not allow a local package game to be telecast outside of the state (and border cities) of the participating teams unless they are telecast on an institutionally branded 24/7 outlet or on a school digital platform. The network does allow games to be distributed on ESPN Full Court and ESPN3. Many 'displaced' fans see this as a disservice but without such a restriction a school could replicate a national network (or sell games to another national cable network) and impact the ESPN exclusive distribution rights. It is difficult for some fans to understand how this could impact ESPN negatively. Owning the exclusive national distribution rights is important as it impacts advertising, ratings, clearances, cable penetration and other factors.

Q. Who decides which games are selected by which network?

The Big 12 Conference office works in cooperation with the programming department of ESPN in the development of the Big 12 telecast schedule.

Shortly after the NCAA Final Four, the parties begin the development of a wish list for games for the following season. The process includes a review of ratings history, historical and prospective strength of a team (including returning players/starters, incoming recruits), coaching changes, previous appearances, non-conference scheduling, potential building conflicts, scheduling concerns and a number of other factors.

Typically, CBS Sports will purchase three-to-five games from the Big 12 inventory and will have specific dates and matchups it would prefer. All parties endeavor to make that happen. Next, ESPN and the Big 12 work cooperatively on the development of the Big Monday schedule, followed by a request for a limited number of 'high-priority' games on other dates (e.g. Wednesday and Saturday). The Big 12 office has a scheduling service that allows us to note specific dates for specific games and we attempt to satisfy the television requests. Based upon the complexity of the requests, the computer will produce between 500 and several thousand schedules for review and after a final schedule is chosen, ESPN will finalize its telecast schedule.

There are no minimum or maximum appearance requirements but the parties endeavor to provide a good cross section of games on all of the ESPN platforms for all member institutions.

Q. Why would the Big 12 place games, especially big games, on a channel like ESPNU or ESPNEWS that only some people receive at this time?

First, ESPNU and ESPNEWS are now in more than 74 million homes and growing and they are considered fully distributed national cable networks. Second, the 25-30 Conference games that were syndicated within the Big 12 states in previous years are all full national telecasts. The Big 12 is committed to helping build the ESPNU brand and distribution; we believe the Big 12 can help ESPNU grow not only in our region, but nationally. The growth of ESPNU and ESPNEWS will pay great dividends not only for Big 12 basketball but potentially other sports down the road. (ESPNEWS will reportedly carry around 50 live games produced exclusively for that network this year involving games from the Big 12, ACC and Big Ten.)

Q. Will the Big 12 develop its own channel like several other conferences have?

At this time, the membership is committed to its current partnerships with ABC/ESPN (football and men's basketball), FOX Sports (football and Olympic sports) and their own local packages. The Big 12 was the first conference in the country (as of January 1, 2008) to be guaranteed three days per week for men's basketball on ESPN and ESPN2. In addition, the commitment of games to ESPNU provides the Big 12 with a solid national platform for basketball. These factors and the strength of the school local packages currently satisfy the memberships exposure concern; but the Big 12 monitors the marketplace on a daily basis and will continue to evaluate the need for a dedicated channel.

Q. Who selects the announcers for Big 12 basketball?

The Big 12 does not play a role in the selection of announcers for the national telecasts on CBS, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS. The Big 12 office works cooperatively in a process for the announcers but cannot unreasonably withhold approval of any announcer.

Q. Where is the best place to find the listings for which games are being telecast and where?

Right here at Big12Sports.com

(Check the home page and/or visit the composite schedule for the respective sports and make sure to check your local listings.)

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