Sports Business Journal reported this morning that FOX Sports had given up their rights to the Big 12 football championship games, not just in future odd numbered seasons, but this coming season (2019). The publication's First Look podcast noted two items were in play:
1) The cost of the game to FOX, reported to be in the $20 million range, didn't justify the return FOX could get for carrying the game. EDIT: a separate SBJ piece for their Daily publication notes that FOX gained the rights to the 2017 game only through mediation involving conference expansion that didn't occur.
2) Scheduling. I'll go into this one in further details.
So let's handle this Q&A style:
What are the scheduling concerns that I see?
When the game came on the market and was listed as rotating between ESPN and FOX, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby mentioned several times that Friday night was a potential time slot for the game, subject to AT&T Stadium availability. Go figure, the Cowboys playing Thursday night games at home the Thursday after Thanksgiving, the day before a Friday championship game (a week after Black Friday), may have cut into that stadium availability. Sports Business Journal mentioned Friday was a non-starter in their podcast, but that's incorrect based on the history of trying to set the 2017 date.
Another hit to the possibility of a Friday night game on FOX is the start of WWE Smackdown in 2019. Assuming FOX is hooked to airing Smackdown only on the broadcast network, that would leave FS1 as your broadcast outlet, which might have been less palatable to the conference.
(And yes, that could be a concern for the Pac-12 in future years, though if they aren't concerned about TV ratings & want better attendance, Saturday might be ideal)
So we keep it anchored to Saturday with FOX, who has the Big Ten championship on their broadcast network in primetime through 2022, so the Big 12 is locked out of a nighttime game unless its FS1. Play alongside the SEC championship in the afternoon? Seems like a losing proposition compared to 12pm ET, which I know fans of the conference dislike.
Financials didn't work for FOX?
I guess not. Without parroting everything from the First Look podcast linked in the first paragraph, FOX sought to have their payout decreased, maybe in exchange for guaranteeing the early afternoon slot on the broadcast network or for the game to air on FS1 at night (I know neither of these things to be factual, so take those with a grain of salt). It sounds like the minimum the Big 12 would take for a rights fee was still too much for FOX to pay.
The 2017 game had a 3.8 rating for FOX (Oklahoma vs. TCU). It had a 6.2 for Texas vs. Oklahoma, and maybe FOX looks at that as a barometer for what the game can get on its best matchup & everything else being less than that for the cost it pays.
Both ratings numbers came from Sports Media Watch.
Where's the game going to air?
ESPN was the leader per Sports Business Journal. I tend to believe that & the rights in even numbered years already reside here too. They can play around with putting it in primetime at the same time as the ACC championship, flexing both games based on the matchup to air on ESPN or ABC. This used to happen with the Big 12 when they had regular season games up against the ACC championship. Compared to the perceptions of a game moving from FOX to FS1, a game moving between ABC & ESPN has a less negative perception. That option could end up relegating the Mountain West over to ESPN2 for the final championship game of their current agreement.
If ESPN elects to stay with their current agreement & not add these games, maybe CBS would enter the picture, but I'm not picturing that scenario.
What's FOX going to air that Saturday?
College basketball seems likely. They had around 400K-700K viewers for a tripleheader of Big East & Pac-12 games this year per ShowBuzzDaily. That's a time of the year where they now schedule the opening of Big Ten intraconference play, so maybe they can get a matchup for the broadcast network like they did in 2017 with Ohio St. vs. Wisconsin before the conference's football championship game. That one got over a million viewers.