The future media landscape for the power 5 conferences: Big 12
2026 is coming faster than you think.
In the world of cable television and rights fees, networks and conferences are already finalizing contracts that won’t even start until 10 years from now. Making matters more difficult, new technologies and streaming services, like NetFlix, have disrupted the cable industry, especially among young people, and it’s unclear how popular traditional cable will be in the next decade.
The Big 12 recognizes the changing landscape of media, but they also have bigger problems to deal with, specifically their lack of a conference championship for football or a propriety television network.
The Big 12 is courting new members
Despite being called the Big 12, the conference only has ten schools. From 2010-13, the Big 12 lost four schools, Missouri, Texas A&M, Nebraska and Colorado, while adding only TCU and West Virginia. Without 12 schools in the conference, the Big 12 could no longer have its lucrative championship game.
In addition to affecting the bottom line, the lack of a championship game has hurt the resumes of Big 12 football teams looking to break into the College Football Playoff. For these reasons, the Big 12 has explored adding at least two more teams and are giving serious consideration to Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and Colorado State.
Even with the addition of more teams and a championship game, the Big 12 will still likely be the least profitable Power-5 conference. In order to compete with the big boys, like the SEC and Big Ten, the Big 12 needs to address its media rights.
The Longhorn Network hurts the Big 12
The University of Texas has the most athletic department revenue in the NCAA in large part due to its propriety television station, the Longhorn Network. Through a deal with ESPN, Texas is guaranteed an average of $15 million a year yet many speculate that The Worldwide Leader loses lots of money from this deal.
Other Big 12 officials believe that if Texas gives up its network in favor of a conference network, it’ll be a win-win for Big 12 and ESPN, bringing in much more revenue for both. However, this is a lot easier said than done, as the other Big 12 schools have already sold their television rights.
Complicating matters even further, media deals negotiated five or six years ago had a lot more upside than they do now. If Texas and the other Big 12 schools decided to scrap their media deals, there is no guarantee that they’d make financial sense, especially for the Longhorns.
The Big 12 finds itself at the bottom of the Power 5 when it comes to revenue and it’s difficult to see that changing without drastic action. The first step is clearly to add at least two schools, get back a Big 12 Championship Game, sell the television rights, and hope that the extra game continually propels a Big 12 school into the ultra-lucrative College Football Playoffs. The second step will be more difficult and requires Texas to forego revenue for the good of the conference. However unlikely, a new conference television network is ultimately what the Big 12 needs.