Following the recent expansion and extension of Fox Sports and ESPN’s national multimedia rights deals with the Big 12 Conference through the 2024-25 academic year, three of the conference members announced their own programming pacts last week.
The University of Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech all have forged deals for tertiary rights, principally anchored around one football game, available men’s basketball contests and various Olympic sports with Fox Sports Southwest, which counts some 9 million homes in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.
For the schools and tertiary rights-holders like Learfield Sports, the pacts open up windows for athletic events that might otherwise gain limited exposure, not to mention a new revenue stream. Sources familiar with the negotiations indicate the Oklahoma deal, which is by far the most expansive of the three with a minimum of at least 1,000 hours of live and encore games, coaches shows and other ancillary fare, is worth north of $50 million over its 10-year term.
A Fox Sports spokesman says the deals buttress its RSN lineup with relevant regional content and will not result in “any upcharge” to distributors.
“There are opportunities beyond the national packages for rights-holders and the schools to further connect with fans through more programming that drives sponsorship, revenues and distribution with the RSNs,” said Lee Berke, president and CEO of LHB Sports, Entertainment and Media, who served in an advisory capacity on the Oklahoma and TCU agreements.
Berke said the Oklahoma deal has been in the works for several years and the decision was ultimately made to go with Fox Sports and bypass the distribution process involved with starting a stand-alone service. Branded under the heading of “Sooner Sports TV Powered By Fox Sports,” Berke said the OU fare is gaining “wide immediate exposure regionally through FS Southwest and FS Oklahoma and in some cases nationally via the programmer’s three Fox College channels.”
Given the nation’s growing interest in college athletics and RSNs’ appetites to sate fans’ attendant appetites , Berke, who is currently engaged with other potential collegiate rights gambits, said schools will choose the option that works best for them.
As for the Longhorn Network, ESPN’s service dedicated to University of Texas athletics, it recently inked carriage deals with AT&T U-verse and Google Fiber in the Kansas City DMA. Longhorn Network, now in its sophomore season, also has carriage contracts with Verizon FiOS and a number of other local providers, including Grande Communications, in the Lone Star State. The programmer says it remains in distribution discussions with top cable operators in Texas, including Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Suddenlink and Charter, as well as satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network.