CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon wrote a very good article on the Big 12 and wanted to point two items he wrote that I believe get lost in the whole realignment thing. First one:
There's a line of thinking among some lower-budget Big 12 schools that the 10-member conference has incredibly helped their television exposure. Instead of playing some important football and basketball games on a conference network, some Big 12 schools are getting more attention than ever by playing on ESPN and Fox.And it is mostly valid. I've mentioned this before, probably back when the Pac-16 was a possibility, that we're limited to around nine hours on a Saturday when games can feasibly start for Big 12 schools (11am - 8pm locally). Assuming no new distribution methods are created on the scale of FOX Sports 1 or ESPNU, where do those other games go? FSN, which isn't a 100% national distribution? Do you grant exclusive distribution via digital outlets like ESPN3 and FOX Sports Go? Are you amenable to games on television networks like FOX Sports 2 and FOX College Sports, which aren't in nearly as many homes? Are you willing to have Friday night games while high school football is going on? The answer to some of these questions might not have been the same as a few years ago when your TV contracts were built around network exclusivity.
Would expansion reopen the Big 12's TV contracts that are through 2025? "The answer is we would suggest that it does," Bowlsby said. "I don't know if our TV partners would agree with that."This is the biggest risk of expansion. The television rightsholder generally has the say-so when it comes to paying more or less, and its why they are usually consulted during the vetting process. Granted I'm citing the C-USA contract from 2005-11 with ESPN because it was entered as evidence as part of a lawsuit, but its details say two things re: conference composition (paraphrasing):
1) If teams leave (the members the agreement covers are generally specified by name), both the network and conference can negotiate in good faith to determine a new rights. Incoming members will be considered as part of those negotiations. In the case of the C-USA agreement, if no agreement between the parties was reached, ESPN at its sole discretion could reduce the rights fee proportionally by the number of lost teams compared to previous number of membership (ie. Cut rights fee by 16% if you lose two members out of a 12 member conference and do not replace them. This was where ESPN and FOX cut the Big 12 a break originally when they went from twelve to ten).
2) If teams are added only & increase the number of members, good faith negotiations occur. In the C-USA TV deal being referenced, and I know I'm extrapolating to a Big 12 TV deal that I have not seen, but by Bob Bowlsby's quote above, there's no guarantee that existing TV partners are required to pay more or would pay enough to make all existing Big 12 schools "whole" with respect to the current amount they receive from the Big 12 TV deals.
In short, ESPN and FOX don't care how you, as a conference, decide to distribute the TV money they pay the conference. That's on you.