Friday, July 6, 2012

What's the holdup in the Big 12/ESPN/FOX contract?

Watch, it will get announced this afternoon after I write this...

Anyways, Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News mentioned a possible hangup in the finalization of the Big 12 deals with ESPN and FOX.  One could revolve around Texas.  And no, before you get all up in arms that its Texas causing the problem, its probably not the case.

As part of the existing Big 12 contract, no team can appear on ABC more than six times in a season.  Virtually all conferences have some form of exposure limit and its two-fold:

  • A team isn't overexposed or dominates all of the appearances for a conference
  • It provides some value to the secondary rightsholder that they'll have opportunities to select games from the top tier teams of a conference.
When the Longhorn Network came into being and FOX gave ESPN the ability to take a 2nd game for the network, it was mentioned that all LHN games involving Texas would come out of ABC's appearance count for the season.  By proxy, that means an appearance on LHN counts as Texas appearing on ABC.  We saw that late in 2011 when the Texas-Kansas St. came up for telecast selection.  Texas had its games against Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas A&M preselected for ABC & ESPN, respectively (the UT-TAMU game, when aired on ESPN, counted as part of the ABC deal, a quirk of the TV deal), plus the Rice & Kansas games on LHN and Oklahoma St. game on ABC.  That left ABC with its maximum of Texas games as part of the Big 12 deal.  F/X became the beneficiary of those choices and was able to take the Kansas St. game.

Note: Texas's home game vs. BYU on ESPN2 was a game sublicensed from FOX.  It would not count towards ESPN's count.

So, we get to 2012 and, ESPN may have boxed itself in with respect to Texas again.  It has been rumored that up to three Texas games could air on LHN.  Let's say the Wyoming & New Mexico games, plus a conference game.  Now tack on the Oklahoma game which has already been selected for an ABC telecast.  And then there's the TCU game, which ESPN seems to have a hold on for its Thanksgiving night telecast.  And we're back to where we were in 2011 where ESPN can only choose one more Big 12 game for its telecast package.  

To get to my point, it would not surprise me that ESPN may be requesting some relief when it comes to selecting Texas games.  Maybe an extra appearance in exchange for FOX taking more Big 12 games for their over the air network (LHN is Texas's institutional network, so one of the games theoretically should be exempt from national rights agreements and ABC appearance count), or that FOX can make a priority pick for another game during the season.  I would have thought that ABC would be the destination for the Notre Dame-Oklahoma game on 10/27, particularly because FOX only have one window on their broadcast network, but negotiations are an uneasy peace at times.  ND-Oklahoma would be a helluva lead in to FOX's World Series coverage that night. 


Morgan Wick said...

Wait, I'm confused. If this is a per-school appearance limit, how would it affect Big 12 games that don't involve Texas?

Matt Sarzyniak said...

Wouldn't really affect them.

Serge said...

I'm getting anxious... (no, wait, that was three weeks ago). When is the latest the Big XII/ESPN/FOX could announce which games go where? (at least for the first few weeks)

Matt Sarzyniak said...

I suppose the latest would be August (12 days before). Not ideal for fans. ESPN and FOX have likely already made their choices but can't legally release them until the contracts get signed.

I'm running under the assumption that the SEC kickoff times will show up next Tuesday at the opening of their media day and the Big 12 to show up the following Monday for theirs.