SBJ/September 17-23, 2012/Media

Oklahoma will see $7M a year from TV deal

The University of Oklahoma’s block of branded programming on Fox Sports Net will result in upward of $7 million in new annual revenue from both Fox and the school’s multimedia rights holder, Learfield Sports.

Oklahoma’s agreement to have branded content — including live games — run on Fox regionals in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas will pay the school $58 million over 10 years, industry sources say. Some of that money will go toward the production of events.

Oklahoma considered its own network before deciding on a featured spot on Fox regionals.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
While that’s not Texas money — the Longhorns’ deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network pays $300 million over 20 years — the Sooners will not face distribution battles that have been so frustrating for Texas fans.
Sooner Sports TV Powered by Fox, as it’s being called, will reach 9 million households on FSN channels in the four states.

Learfield, the longtime rights holder at Oklahoma, is rewriting its deal with the Sooners to include new rights and terms that will increase the payout to the school from its current $7.5 million a year. The extension between Learfield and Oklahoma is expected to take the relationship out to 2022 and increase the revenue to the school by $1 million to $2 million annually. The old deal would have ended in 2017.

Oklahoma and Learfield have agreed to the parameters of that deal, but it has not been finalized, both sides said.
“Learfield has been engaged with us in everything from sales to sponsorship activation, and this creates an even broader platform for them to sell,” said Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione.

Sooner Sports TV turned out to be a trendsetter in the Big 12 Conference. Texas Tech announced an agreement with Fox last week that will put football, basketball, Olympic sports events and two magazine shows on the Fox regionals in the same region. New conference member TCU has a similar arrangement with Fox. Those go into effect this season.

Sources say Fox is in talks with three other Big 12 schools — Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State — to show their live games and shoulder programs.

The Big 12 gives its schools the right to exploit any home games that are not picked up by the conference’s TV partners, Fox and ESPN.

“This is the best of all possible worlds,” said Lee Berke, a TV consultant who worked with Oklahoma and TCU on their deals. “Oklahoma seriously contemplated a channel and it had the ability to construct that. We looked at every possible way to offer this programming. This was the right model for Oklahoma and its fans, and for regional networks that need content.”

Sorting through who gets what in the aftermath of these deals can be complicated.

Sooner Sports TV, clearly the most expansive school arrangement with Fox, will have a minimum of 1,000 hours of programming on the Fox channels. Content will be produced by SoonerVision, the production arm of the athletic department. The school has spent between $4 million and $5 million and hired 95 employees, including full and part time, to develop its production capabilities.

Fox eventually will take over Sooner-Sports.com, the school’s official website and the home for live streaming of any events that don’t go to Sooner Sports TV. CBSSports.com College Network operates the website through the 2012-13 season. Any live events that don’t go to TV will be streamed live on the site.

Learfield, meanwhile, picks up the rights to sell the majority of advertising and sponsorship within the branded TV programming, which will include at least one live football game, eight live basketball games and several live Olympic sports events. Other shoulder programming and game rebroadcasts will be part of the content as well.

Fox will have some ability to sell units into the TV programming, but Learfield will retain most of the time. Learfield also will have the ability to roll ad units on Fox into its corporate sponsorship packages.

Given that Oklahoma has been considering a network for more than two years, Learfield had a go-to-market strategy ready at the start of this year.

Three founding partner positions have been sold and a fourth is nearly done. The first three to come on board are Chickasaw Nation, an Oklahoma-based Native American nation that runs casinos and off-track betting; Chesapeake Energy; and a co-op of groups on campus, including the alumni association.

Greg Brown, Learfield’s president and CEO, said selling TV ad units and sponsorships is well within the agency’s competency. Learfield has long been selling advertising for its TV and radio broadcasts of Oklahoma events, as well as coaches shows and any other programming.

Learfield has a sales staff of 10 based in Norman, Okla., that runs Sooner Sports Properties, making it one of Learfield’s “two or three largest properties,” Brown said. Eric Barnhart is the longtime general manager of the Oklahoma property.

Brown said Learfield has not decided if it will add to the sales staff.
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