The Texas-ESPN Contract Has Emerged. Can The Rest Of The Big 12 Compete?
When Texas agreed last year to stay in the Big 12 - the major push needed for the depleted conference to survive - it was no secret why they did it: the promise of big TV money. Earlier this year, we found out how that big TV money would be acquired - the university's own network, launched via a partnership with ESPN. Earlier this summer, we learned a little more about that network.
But here's something else we learned: Texas' Big 12 conference mates are concerned enough about the potential competitive advantage of one school having its own television network that they're voting to impose certain limitations on what that network can and can't do. And thanks to the recent posting of the the entire Longhorn Network agreement between Texas and ESPN, we understand that much more just how lucrative this network could be...and why fellow Big 12 institutions wouldn't be thrilled with it.
Credit for the posting of the contract, and additional analysis, goes to @spadilly, who wrote about his findings on The Midnight Yell. Perhaps the most significant detail: even if at some point the Big 12 is no more (and any time a conference with "12" in the name actually has 10 members, its long-term prospects can't help but appear iffy), the Longhorn network continues uninterrupted:
[I]n the event that UT determines during the Term, to become a member of an athletics conference other than the Big 12 Conference or not to participate in any athletics conference, UT agrees to continue to grant and provide (or to cause IMG to continue to grant and provide), to ESPN the Television Rights set forth in this Agreement.
Additionally, should Texas become an independent, ESPN would receive a 60-day window to negotiate the rights to air any programming that currently belongs to the Big 12, as well as a 48-hour window to match any hypothetical programming agreement with any other network. So no matter what happens, Texas is set in a way no other Big 12 school would be. And if the Big 12 is able to form a network of its own, it would do so without "Content in any manner that, in ESPN's good faith judgment following consultation with Licensor, will materially adversely affect the distribution of the [Longhorn] Network during the Term."
There are other tidbits worth checking out, but in the end it's about money - namely, the nearly $11 million Texas takes home annually as part of this deal (and if ESPN at any point during the 20-year deal passes $295 million in profits, Texas receives 70 percent of those additional profits) - and exposure. Thanks to the Longhorn Network, Texas is assured not be hurting for either anytime soon - a level of assurance its Big 12 conference mates can't match. Whether or not the Big 12 can continue on, Texas is to an extent living in its own world thanks to this ESPN deal. And while we can't blame Texas for making the best business decisions possible for itself, we also wouldn't blame the school's rivals for not being thrilled about it.
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