ESPN adds championship games and OTT content in expanded Big 12 deal
ESPN, the US sports broadcaster, has expanded its deal with college sports’ Big 12 conference, acquiring three more American football championship games, and making it the de facto network of the conference until the end of the 2024-25 season.
Under the agreement announced on Wednesday, ESPN has added the 2019, 2021 and 2023 championship games after national network Fox declined to take up its option to show the three showpieces.
The championship games will broadcast on either ESPN or sister national network ABC.
ESPN and Fox presently share television rights to the Big 12 in a 13-year deal worth $2.6 billion signed in 2012, but, in 2017, the Big 12 relaunched its championship game, and ESPN landed the rights to the even-numbered-year games.
The new agreement also entails extensive Big 12 content on ESPN+, the broadcaster’s OTT service launched in 2018, and, in all, ESPN will pay $40 million more on top of what it was already due to pay from 2019 to 2024, according to Sports Business Journal Daily.
Eight of the 10 universities will have one exclusive American football game per season on ESPN+, the exceptions being Texas, which has an existing deal with ESPN’s Longhorn Network, and Oklahoma, which remains aligned with Fox, although they could feature on the platform as away teams.
ESPN+ will show Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State games from this year, with Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia to be added in 2020.
The platform will also carry Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and volleyball games.
ESPN+ will show all Big 12 men’s basketball games not televised on the linear channel, which could add up to 75 per year.
All Big 12 content on ESPN+ will be branded specifically for the conference, which at present is the only one of the so-called ‘Power Five’ leagues not to have its own dedicated network.
In a statement, Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner, said: “Our institutions are thrilled with the exposure all 10 athletics programs will receive through this Big 12-branded offering. Our goal was to be forward thinking in the use of technology to create a conference-branded platform and believe this partnership ideally positions the Big 12 now and into the foreseeable future."