Big 12 TV Deal a Credit to Beebe


There are crises all over the world. Nuclear meltdowns in Japan. Near-revolt in Libya. Bankrupt European countries. There are so many problems to solve. My idea – send Dan Beebe.

Thanks to the Big 12 TV deal now in negotiations, the Big 12 commissioner is showing he can turn near-disaster into opportunity.

You may have heard that he’s negotiating a new conference TV deal with Fox. That deal is rumored to be $60 million per year. It could also include a conference TV network, even though Texas, and most likely, Oklahoma, won’t play ball on any potential conference cable net.

Think about that for a minute. About a year ago at this time we were all writing about the demise of the Big 12. Nebraska and Colorado were bolting so they could get in on conference TV deals. Texas pretty much blackmailed the Big 12 into giving it more revenue in exchange for staying. Then, the school went and created the Longhorn Network with ESPN, pretty much thumbing their collective nose at the rest of the league. The league was fighting for dear life.

Now, with the potential of this new TV deal, the Big 12 could generate up to $120 million per year for its 10 member schools. I may have forgotten to mention that the league already has a $480 million deal with ABC/ESPN through 2016. With that kind of television revenue, the league looks rock solid to keep on going for a while.

Beebe’s work equates to that fifth down that Colorado got against Missouri back in the 1990s, a down the Buffs turned into a victory. Beebe received one last shot at a Hail Mary and connected.

Remember – this isn’t the Big Ten or the SEC or the Pac-12, where it’s all for one. Those conference networks came together pretty easily because everyone was willing to take an equal piece of the revenue. Beebe had greater limitations.

Revenue sharing in the Big 12 is not equal. Texas gets a larger share, ostensibly because its presence generates more revenue for the rest of the league. That’s hard to argue with. OU and Texas A&M get larger pieces, as well. Then there’s the matter of programming a conference cable network without Texas and, potentially, Oklahoma. Now, the Oklahoma Network and a Big 12 Network aren’t done deals yet, but a conference network would basically be a write-off for Fox, in exchange for the potential to broadcast a block of Big 12 football games on Saturdays and Big 12 basketball games throughout the school year. A deal like this gives Fox more preferential treatment, and the Big 12 more exposure.

So even though there isn’t a level playing field within the conference, and Fox likely won’t get its hands on Texas or Oklahoma programming inventory, Beebe still managed to extort a figure that makes you think there isn’t a budget shortfall in 46 U.S. states. Just amazing.

Now to the next task. Beebe needs to fully preserve the Big 12’s position in college football by adding two teams that would bring the league back to 12 teams. First, go get Houston, which would give the league a Top 10 media market foothold for the first time (though technically it pretty much owns the Dallas-Fort Worth market). I’m not sure who the second school should be. But Beebe has proven pretty crafty so far. After all, he’s about to make sure the Big 12 isn’t going anywhere.