Big 12 Men's Basketball Television Frequently Asked Questions

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

    A. ESPN has purchased the first-selection rights to 95 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 its 95 contests, 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, syndication and local packages?

    A. 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 ESPN Classic. 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 ESPN Plus (a.k.a. ESPN Regional). Starting with the 2008-09 season the games were re-branded as the Big 12 Network. The Big 12 Network will carry 32 games each season, but the network could take up to 12 games out of this inventory for placement on ESPN or ESPN2 or ESPNU. These games are cleared on a market-by-market basis to (primarily) local over-the-air television stations, local cable access channels or a local sports network. These stations are not required to carry the entire syndicated package but take the majority of Saturday afternoon games and some of the prime time syndicated telecasts.

    The quick breakdown is: ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS 43 games
      ESPNU, ESPN3 20 games
      Big 12 Network 32 games

    Institutions with local packages have the rights to distribute the remaining games on local or 'third-tier' packages. These are done on a market-by-market basis or on a state-wide system of over-the-air affiliates, a regional cable system and/or via the Internet. Some institutions televise all of the remaining games and some only a few.

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

    A. Games carried on ABC and by the Big 12 Network (ESPN Plus) are carried on either ESPN Full Court and/or ESPN3. Of course, 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 local packages to provide bonus coverage outside of their state. Of course, the school's must provide a telecast quality feed to ESPN Full Court for distribution.
Q. Why did the Big 12 grant ESPN exclusivity in terms of telecast times and distribution of games?
    A.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. The network does allow games to be distributed on ESPN Full Court and ESPN3; but schools cannot televise or stream via the Internet any game outside of its state unless ESPN has turned down the opportunity to carry on ESPN Full Court first. 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 many 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. How do you decide which stations will carry the games on the Big 12 Network?

    A. ESPN Regional Television maintains a staff that handles station clearances for a number of its properties, including Big 12 games. We strive to provide clearances for all of our telecast windows in all of the markets on the best station lineup we can achieve. Ultimately, it is the local channel that makes the final determination on the number of games it will carry, including which games. Recently a station in a state opted to carry network programming rather than the big in-state rivalry game and despite our efforts it would not take the game. This station is one of the strongest in the market and carries the majority of Big 12 telecasts, but would not take this particular game.

Q. Okay, but I live in Kansas and they are showing a game from teams in another state or they are not carrying the Big 12 Network game at all in my state. How could showing a Kansas or Kansas State game local package game at the same time possibly impact the Big 12 package?

    A. If stations are allowed to carry the local package games at the same time as a Big 12 telecast they wouldn't take the Big 12 package or just wait until the selections were done and 'cherry-pick' the games they want. This would greatly devalue the Big 12 package and would lead to the end of the syndicated package, which by the way, is one of the strongest in the country.
Q. Who decides which games are selected by which network?
    A. The Big 12 Conference office works in cooperation with the programming departments of ESPN and ESPN Regional 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 match-ups 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 program 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 that only a few people receive at this time?

    A. ESPNU is now in more than 72 million homes and growing. We haven't found anybody who likes this answer yet, but there was a time when people complained about games being on ESPN and ESPN2. 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 will pay great dividends not only for Big 12 basketball but potentially other sports down the road. The 20 additional basketball games on ESPNU comes from the inventory of games that would have been on the Big 12 Network and provides additional national exposure albeit limiting the coverage in the Big 12 states (at this time).

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

    A. 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?

    A. The Big 12 does not play a role in the selection of announcers for the national telecasts on CBS, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. Because of the nature of the syndicated package (Big 12 Network), the Big 12 office works cooperatively in an approval process for the announcers but can not unreasonably withhold approval of an announcer.

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

    A. Right here at Big12Sports.com (check the home page or visit the "Multimedia" pages) and make sure to check your local listings.