Conference set up for new TV deals

Berry Tramel The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY (TNS) — The Big 12 signed television contracts with ESPN and Fox in 2012, with both going through the 2025 season. It’s hard to imagine what the broadcast landscape will look like in 2025.

Fans watching games on mobile devices is increasing at an accelerated rate. But live sports remain one of the few hallmarks of traditional television. So what does that all mean for the Big 12 Conference?

“Well, we’re trying to align ourselves with the best partners that we can, first of all,” commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “In doing that, we acknowledge technology is changing rapidly, there is no question about it. Mobile consumption is higher all the time. One indication of that is Nielsen is now for the first time keeping track of away-from-home viewing and mobile consumption.

“I think we are in a very good position, ‘we’ being those that have our content owners, because I think that if you have live content, it really doesn’t matter what the platform is. It’s going to be valuable and it’s going to be consumable and people are going to want to have access to it. And, you know, whether that is on a digital device that can be on your iPad or television or be on your mobile phone as you’re driving around town or whether it continues on traditional linear cable…”

The numbers for cable TV are shrinking, and Bowlsby said, “I suspect that linear cable is going to continue to decline, but it’s never going to go away. It’s too big of an enterprise and there are too many people relying upon it. I think mobile will continue to grow.

The Big Ten’s network contract expires in summer 2023, the Pac-12’s contracts expire in summer 2024 and the SEC’s contract with CBS expires in summer 2025.

And while streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime figure to get into the bidding wars, the networks won’t go quietly. Heck, it’s possible that old-fashioned over-the-air stations could regain a foothold. Sports Illustrated pointed that since some cord-cutters long ago left cable TV, the ancient rabbit-ears antennas have found a new market, as ways for cord-cutters to view broadcasts over NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox affiliates.

Put it all together, and the Big 12, like the other conferences other than the ACC (tied up well into the 2030s), are poised to demand another round of huge contracts in the 2020s.