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Volume 22 No. 28
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After Fox says no thanks, Big 12 in market for media rights to its football championship game

The Big 12 is hoping to get $20 million or more for its football championship after Fox gave up its rights to the game’s odd-numbered years.
Photo: getty images

The Big 12 is in the marketplace with three of its conference championship football games, including one that kicks off in just 11 months.

The conference has been shopping the 2019, 2021 and 2023 games to media companies over the last several months after Fox told Big 12 officials that it was not interested.

The Big 12 had hoped that Fox, one of its two primary media partners, would pick up the rights to the championship games in the odd-numbered years. Fox carried the 2017 game as part of a mediated settlement around conference expansion, paying about $25 million for its rights. But the network and the conference could not come to terms on the other three available games. Sources said the last offer made to Fox valued the game in the high teens.

The conference is trying to get at least $20 million for the game, sources said.

Fox already holds rights to the Big Ten championship game annually, and the network shares the rights to the Pac-12 championship game every other year with ESPN. Sources said a main reason for Fox’s lack of interest comes down to scheduling. If Fox held the rights, a Big 12 championship game most likely would have to compete against either the SEC or ACC championship games, or be held on a Friday night. Fox executives did not like any of those scenarios.

At least two networks are said to have shown interest in the three-game package. ESPN, which already owns the rights to the games in 2020, 2022 and 2024, clearly has the upper hand if it wants the rights. Sources say the conference is not allowed to shop the games to a third network unless ESPN and Fox both pass on it. Any disagreement in price goes to arbitration.

ESPN does not share Fox’s scheduling concerns. The network has the ACC championship game every year and the Pac-12 game every other year, in addition to a slew of title games from outside the power five. For a network that has become known for its coverage of college sports, ESPN would be much more receptive to carrying the Big 12 championship game, even in the midst of strong competition.

In the two years since the Big 12 revived its championship football game, the conference has delivered compelling matchups, twice put a team in the College Football Playoff and generated record attendance.

The Big 12 title game at the end of the 2018 season featured an epic rematch of Oklahoma-Texas in AT&T Stadium. Fans from both schools filled up the Arlington, Texas, stadium with a crowd of 83,114, an attendance record for a conference championship game.

The conference had played championship games from its founding in 1996 through 2010, but when Nebraska left for the Big Ten and Colorado bolted for the Pac-12 in 2010, the Big 12 didn’t have the NCAA-mandated 12 teams necessary to stage a title game. That rule has since been amended, so the Big 12 brought the game back in 2017.

Media consultant Chris Bevilacqua of Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures is representing the Big 12 in the negotiations. 

First Look podcast, with Big 12 discussion beginning at the 14:45 mark: