A. In September 2012, ABC/ESPN and FOX finalized contracts with the Big 12 for football telecast rights through 2024-25. The 13-year deal allows both ABC/ESPN and FOX to place games on over-the-air networks (ABC and FOX) as well as cable outlets (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FX , FCS and FOX regional sports networks).
Q. How will these new contracts impact football television for 2012 and beyond?
A. The most significant change is that the Big 12 becomes one of only two major conferences to have games on two different over-the-air stations – ABC, the leader in college football television and FOX, the home of MLB, NFL and now Big 12 football. The agreements also allow ABC to place more games on its various ESPN platforms and more opportunities to utilize the "reverse mirror" concept.
Q. What is the reverse mirror?
A. Big 12 football games that originate on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or FX will be full national games, as will the games on FOX. Games on ABC can be either national or regional. All of the ABC regional telecasts will be available in the Big 12 markets but the bonus is that many of them will also be available in the outer-market on ESPN or ESPN2 utilizing what is called a reverse mirror. So it means over-the-air in the inner-market and cable in the outer-market. It may not apply to all games…and those it does not apply to will be on ESPN Game Plan and/or ESPN3.
Q. What are all of the FOX platforms?
A. The FOX Media Group includes the FOX Broadcasting Service (FBS) which is the over-the-air counterpart to ABC. Then there is FX, a nationally distributed cable network. FOX also has regional sports networks like FOX Sports Southwest (FSSW) and FOX Sports Midwest (FSMW) and from time-to-time may place games on alternate channels like FOX Sports Southwest Plus. In addition, FOX College Sports (FCS) is a collection of three nationally distributed channels – FOX College Sports Atlantic, FOX College Sports Central and FOX College Sports Pacific. Any system that carries one of the FOX College Sports channels carries all three.
Q. What does owning the rights entail?
A. At the most basic level it means that the telecast partners control the right to televise games live on all existing and future platforms whether linear (traditional cable or over-the-air distribution) or digital (Internet-based). ABC has the right to televise up to 19 home games involving Big 12 teams, but that number increase to 23 starting with the 2016 season. FOX has the rights to all remaining games, except that each institution may retain one game for distribution on a permitted member institution outlet, or it can provide the game back to FOX for telecasts on one of its platforms.
Q. What is a permitted member institution outlet?
A. Each institution may utilize a combination of linear and digital components to create a permitted member institution out which includes: over-the-air stations and/or regional sports networks within the home state of the institution; and/or a traditional linear 24/7 cable network; and/or an institutionally branded digital network. The Longhorn Network is an example of a linear cable network and K-StateHD.TV is an example of an institutionally-branded digital network.
Q. What are the telecast times for Big 12 football games?
A. This is an area where we have to do a good job of educating our fans. In the past the Conference had established windows at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and then either 6 or 7 p.m., CT (with an occasional odd time for cable games on ESPN). For the most part The Big 12 will have games at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. CT. ESPN has the right to play two games (in 2012) later than 7 p.m., CT and that right expands to four games starting in 2013.
Q. Can Big 12 telecasts go head-to-head against each other?
A. In the past, the various windows were exclusive to the broadcast entity – that means ABC would televise Big 12 games at the same time and FOX would televise Big 12 games at the same time – but they would not go head-to-head very often (with a few exceptions). There are no longer exclusive windows.
Q. Does the Big 12 televise a game in each of these windows every week?
A. No. Big 12 television partners base their selections on the number and quality of games available each week both within and outside of the Big 12 Conference. All Big 12 football games will be televised, but they may not be spread out through each window.
Q. What are the appearance requirements?
A. No institution may appear in more than six games under Big 12 control per season on ABC, but that provision is eliminated starting in 2016 when ABC/ESPN and FOX will begin altering picks through a draft process.
Q. Draft process for selection rights?
A. ABC/ESPN and FOX have established a process and order for selecting games. ABC/ESPN maintains some top priority selections through the 2015 season. However, the two partners established a draft whereby they determined which weekends they select first, second and/or third. Starting in 2016, ABC/ESPN and FOX will have alternating picks with FOX selecting first in even years and ABC/EPSN picking first in odd years.
Q. What is a member institution retained football game?
A. Each institution may retain one game for distribution on a permitted member institution outlet (e.g. Longhorn Network, K-StateHD.tv), or it can provide the game back to FOX for telecasts on one of its platforms.
Q. How is the member institution retained game designated?
A. FOX designates which games are the member institution retained games each year, and generally it will be a non-conference game. However, FOX may designate a conference game as long as the two teams are from different states.
Q. When are games selected?
A. Most games are selected with either 12-day or six-day notice to the Conference. The networks each have two opportunities (four total) to select games on six days notices annually. On or before June 1, ABC/ESPN and FOX will pre-select games for the first three Saturdays; special-date games (like Thursdays), games on Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Friday. For the remaining weeks, ABC/ESPN and FOX shall select games no later than Noon CT on the 12th day preceding a Saturday telecast. ABC/ESPN and FOX have the right on four dates to make the final selection no later than Noon CT on the sixth day preceding a Saturday telecast. Generally, homecoming games will be selected at least 12 days in advance, but the Conference must consider an occasional request to use a six-day pick to select a homecoming game of significance.
Q. What about the Thursday games?
A. The Big 12 is required to make available four games per year for telecast on Thursday nights and one game on Labor Day Sunday. Additional games may be requested (including Friday night games), but are not required.
Q. Why do the networks sometimes switch away from a Big 12 game?
A. Television is a ratings business and there are instances like this that both infringe upon and enhance our telecasts and those of the other conferences. Networks do not like to switch away from a telecast but will sometimes do so when there is a lopsided game in one league and a compelling game in another. For the most part there are markets that are designated as protected - it could be an entire region, the state(s) of the participating team(s) or just the home market(s) of the participating team(s). The networks spend a lot of resources on tweaking this to gain every ratings point they can - and research tells them when to make a switch. Every conference faces the same situation related to these kinds of scenarios.
Q. What do I do if my cable/satellite provider drops, is in dispute or doesn't carry one of the networks that televises Big 12 events?
A. The short answer is to call your provider and ask that they get you the network. The Big 12 plays no role in the direct negotiations between the networks and the carriers and the consumer has the largest amount of leverage. With the exception of FOX College Sports, all of the various ABC/ESPN and FOX platforms are available in more than 70 million homes nationally.
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 and FOX and has opted to allow member institutions to build individual channels or networks via linear or digital distribution platforms rather than a dedicated Big 12 channel.
Q. But what is the Big 12 Network I see?
A. The Big 12 Digital Network is our website. The Big 12 Network is branded syndicated programming of Big 12 men's basketball – a collection of over-the-air stations (and various regional sports networks) that air Conference basketball via syndicated programming through ESPN Regional Television.
Q. Who selects the announcers for Big 12 football?
A. The Big 12 does not play a role in the selection of talent or production crews but reviews and critiques all telecasts; and, provides input to its telecast partners.
Q. Why aren't all games telecast in HD?
A. Television entities continue to make major strides in moving all games to HD. Only games on FOX College Sports are not in HD.
Q. Can you explain the commercial format for a Big 12 football telecast?
A. ABC/ESPN and FOX have slightly different commercial break formats, with all breaks being in the two minute range (plus some buffer time). ABC/ESPN utilizes a standard format of three breaks in the first and third quarters and four breaks in the second and fourth quarters. They are guaranteed two one-minute floaters to insert during natural stops in play (after a score, an injury, instant replay). FOX takes four breaks in each quarter.
Q. What role does television play in instant replay?
A. The instant replay booth is connected by both video and audio to the television production truck, which provides the booth with all available video upon request of the replay officials. For member institution retained games either FOX or the school network will provide the video feed to the instant replay booth.
Q. What about the revenue?
A. The Big 12 cannot comment on the rights fee paid by ABC/ESPN and FOX. However, combined with the revenue each institution is receiving for local package rights, Big 12 member institutions are on par with or exceed the revenue of its peer conferences. All television revenue received from ABC/ESPN and FOX is divided equally among members, but each member retains the revenue it receives for their local packages (whether or not they are with FOX, ABC/ESPN or another entity).