On Wednesday the Big 12 Conference and ESPN announced an expanded rights agreement which runs through the 2024-25 school year. That year is also when the rest of the Big 12’s TV rights contracts expire. Without an extension of the rights, this is when the Big 12 Conference could fall apart as so many expect.
The Big 12 Conference football championship game will be carried on either ABC or ESPN every year through the agreement. ESPN already had the rights to the 2020, 2022 and 2024 games. They now will have all of the games through the end of the agreement.
The big takeaway from this agreement is that conference schools will provide games to be shown on ESPN+, the network’s subscriber streaming service. Some laugh at the fact that the Big 12 is moving to streaming but that’s not the case. The Big 12 will essentially be adding programming that is currently not available nationally. The games currently on TV will continue to be on TV. Kansas will still be on ESPN and CBS often for basketball. Texas and Oklahoma will still be all over your TV during football season. In fact, most football and basketball games will continue to be on TV.
The change is that instead of Kansas’ early season basketball games being on channel 38 in Kansas City, they will be available on ESPN+. In addition to that, many more sports will be available on the streaming platform. ESPN+ will have a Big 12 branded platform making it essentially a Big 12 network similar to the TV networks for the SEC, Big Ten ACC and Pac 12 networks.
This is the future of all TV content. More and more TV shows and sports are shifting to streaming. HBO Now is a streaming version of HBO. ESPN+ is the ESPN streaming service. In fact, the popular satellite TV service DirecTV has a plan to move all of its customers away from satellite dishes to receiving programming over the Internet.
For those of you concerned, you shouldn’t be. As a person who dropped DirecTV and started subscribing to YouTube TV for about a year now, I can tell you that streaming is much better than satellite, cable or over-the-air TV. You can watch games regardless of where you are. Go to your kid’s soccer game and you can have the game on your phone. At home you still get a glorious high definition picture on your big screen. Embrace this move. Don’t fear it.
Not all Big 12 schools will start participating in the ESPN+ agreement this year because of current contracts. Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State will start this year (2019-20). The following year Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia are added to the programming. Texas will not be in this new deal as they will continue to be on the ESPN-owned Longhorn Network. Oklahoma will remain with Fox Sports as part of a deal already in place. Both Texas and Oklahoma will appear on ESPN+ as road teams.
The big concern for Big 12 fans is that the conference could fall apart after the 2024-25 school year. That’s when the TV agreements and thus the grant of rights expire. That means that schools can leave the conference without a a financial hit. We will need to watch if the grant of rights extends past this school year to see if the conference will continue. Frankly, these school are making so much money that I do not see the conference dissolving or significantly changing as so many have predicted for years.
This is a great move for the conference and likely the best they could do. The Big 12 is different than the other power five conferences. The conference schools have said in previous agreements that schools are able to do what is best for them in many cases regarding media rights. Texas and Oklahoma will get more money because they are such a big football draw. That makes sense and it’s good for the other schools in the conference to keep those football powers with them. We’ll see hw things shake out but this is a positive step for the conference at this time.