In what ended up being a somewhat surprising duel, ESPN beat out FOX for the right to broadcast the Atlantic Coast Conference's football and basketball games. Standing alone, that probably wouldn't be news worth discussing on a K-State blog, but in the current context of college sports, it actually could be very relevant to the Big 12. Or maybe I'm just unnaturally obsessed with conference expansion, as two good friends have suggested to me recently, and I'm just typing out my ass right now.
Anyway, the ACC went from an average yearly payout of $67 million for its media rights to a whopping $155 million just from ESPN over the next 12 years. Obviously, the previous contract would have been negotiated prior to the Big 12's last deal, so perhaps it doesn't say much that the Big 12 only gets $60 million per year from ESPN, and $79.5 million total when FSN is factored in. Perhaps the networks see the two leagues as essentially equivalent in terms of TV value, and mere inflation led to the Big 12 getting more TV money.
But even if that's the case, the ACC's announcement has to give Missouri and Nebraska pause. Putting aside the academic angle for a moment, the league's TV contract has been at the center of the conference realignment debate. An annual distribution of $79.5 million leaves the Big 12 well short of the SEC's $205 million and the Big 10's eleventy billion -- OK, not that much, but their ESPN/ABC contract is worth $100 million per year, and the Big 10 Network was probably worth about $70 million last year -- and is a big reason why Missouri and Nebraska have fallen all over themselves to make it clear they would be interested if the Big 10 is interested, too.
The Big 12's ESPN/ABC TV deal expires in 2016. That is a long time to wait, although given the Big 10's historical pattern on expansion, it could be another 25 years or so before they come to a decision. But if they move in the next year or so, as seems likely, it won't be nearly soon enough.
Let's just assume for a second that the status quo vis-a-vis the Big 12 and ACC will continue with the next renegotiation. That would mean something along the lines of $175 million per year from ESPN, or an average of $14.7 million per school, per year. In reality, that probably puts Texas somewhere around $19 million per year, while Baylor, Iowa State and K-State will hover around $10-11 million. Still a significant increase, and that's not including whatever we would get from FSN, which currently kicks in a little more than $1.5 million/year per school, on average. Just for the sake of argument, let's kick that up to $2.5 million/year per school, and suddenly we're looking at more than $17 million/year per school.
And that isn't even taking into consideration several other factors. The article discussing the ACC's contract notes that FOX was a major player in the negotiations, driving up ESPN's big. If they're also interested in the Big 12, that will be a boost. Also, we don't know what the rumored Big 12/Pac-10 alliance could yield. Maybe it would be a cooperative between the two conference's to create a TV channel similar to the Big 10 Network, or maybe we would negotiate our media rights jointly. Either way, there's the possibility to drive up our TV take even more.
In the end, it probably won't equal the take the Big 10 is getting right now, but it could get fairly close. Further, there's the certainty that Nebraska and Missouri would have to forfeit 50 percent of their Big 12 revenue during their two-year notice period, assuming they give that two years. That percentage increases as the notice period shortens. Also, it's likely the Big 10 would require incoming schools to go through a period of reduced revenue sharing. So Nebraska and Missouri could easily be looking at a period of five years wherein they don't make any more money from their conference distribution, be it Big 12 or Big 10 (or both) than they would if they just stayed put. Further, by the time the probationary period would end in the Big 10, the Big 12 may have new media rights deals in place with ESPN/ABC, FSN, and the possible Pac-10 alliance that would bring yearly revenue distribution within a few million of the Big 10.
Again, I've put aside the academic angle, and with the Big 10's Committee on Institutional Cooperation, there's no comparison between the research money available in the Big 10 and the Big 12. But it's entirely possible that, from an athletics angle, the money could be close to a wash by 2016.