An executive with one of the Big 12 Conference’s television partners said in the first hours of Media Days in July that he believed expansion was a good idea for the Big 12 — in a decade or so.
Later that day, word started spreading about an Atlantic Coast Conference network and by the end of the following day, the Big 12 said exploration of expansion candidates was immediately back in play.
That helps explain the possible conflict between the TV partners and conference, reported by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal on Monday.
ESPN and Fox Sports, which own the league’s Tier 1 and 2 media rights through 2025, are on the hook for more rights fees to additional members. Expansion could force the networks to pay tens of millions more per year to the conference, as much as $40 million annually if two teams are added.
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Sources told SBJ that the networks don’t think any of the widely suggested expansion candidates, all outside of power five conferences, bring additional value to the league.
The Big 12 was believed to put expansion on the back burner at the conclusion of its spring meetings in June. Without a strong prospect for a conference network, the league determined it didn’t need to add teams for additional inventory that a network would seek.
But the announcement of the ACC network, which will be owned and operated by ESPN, changed the equation, said David Boren, Oklahoma president and president of the Big 12 Board of Directors.
“We live in a very fast-changing world,” Boren said July 18.
The ACC network leaves the Big 12 as the only one power five conference without a network for its Tier 3 programming.
In the Big 12, the schools own and market those Tier 3 rights. ESPN owns Texas’ Longhorn Network, Fox is involved with several schools, including Oklahoma, and Kansas works with Time Warner Cable.