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Friday, January 28, 2011

Texas Longhorns set bad precedent with TV deal

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— The historic launching of the University of Texas’ own 24-hour sports cable network is as much an affirmation of enormous ego as it is commerce. Texas wanted to be the first athletic conglomerate on the block with its own channel.

But it’s also another indication of the continuing devaluation of conference affiliation.

We knew The Longhorn Network was coming soon. It’s why Texas rejected a formal offer to join an expanded Pac-10 last year and wouldn’t seriously consider joining the Big Ten. Those conferences wouldn’t permit the richest athletic department in the land a grossly disproportionate slice of the vast and still expanding national television revenue pie.

Texas officially became an “independent” with this exclusive network deal. The Big 12 is nothing more than a convenient scheduling partner for the Longhorns now.

How long before the Big Ten gets caught in the ripple effects? How long before Ohio State, the second-biggest revenue producer in all college sports, envisions its own exclusive “Buckeye Network” and seeks a spinoff from the Big Ten Network?

The NCAA must look closely at an exclusive 24-hour channel tied to one institution. It’s basically a paid commercial for the school. Texas already enjoyed a tremendous recruiting advantage over its closest neighbors, especially in football and basketball. But does 24 hours of “Hook ’Em Horns” constitute an unfair recruiting advantage?

It further tips the competitive scales in the favor of those with the deepest pockets. But Texas’ attitude is “If you can’t beat us, tough. Try to join us.”

The Longhorns’ 20-year, $300-million deal with ESPN, which will nationally distribute the network, reportedly dwarfs Notre Dame’s exclusive contract with NBC by about $6 million annually.

It’ll be hard for the other big boys — or at least those who kid themselves into believing that they’re one of the big boys — to ignore.

For instance, ESPN’s agreement with the SEC allows for individual universities to develop their own exclusive channels. How does Gator TV sound in Florida or The SIGN (Saban Is God Network) in Alabama? Auburn’s network could create its own version of the game show “The Price Is Right” starring the fathers of prospective football recruits.

This mad gold rush first began with the clairvoyant Big Ten Network three and a half years ago.

Commissioner Jim Delany and the university presidents smartly foresaw the revenue potential in owning as much of its broadcast content as possible. It worked initially because the conference sold all parties large and small on the virtue of equal revenue sharing.

But Texas’ Longhorn Network just changed the rules for the next five years. Forget your conference partners. It’s now every big dog for itself.

Comments

100 10 years, 10 months ago

$300 million? Heck that's enough to change the towels in Mack Brown's office for the next 10 years & fill his retirement facility with Depends until at least 2031....

Andy Tweedy 10 years, 10 months ago

You don't have to have satellite everywhere. In Omaha, it's part of the sports tier on Cox cable.

kcglowboy 10 years, 10 months ago

It's on Sunflower Broadband in Lawrence, and Time Warner in KC. And it's not a joke ... it's bringing in hundreds of millions to the Big 10 (+2), part of the reason members of that conference receive a much bigger payout than members of the Big 12 (-2).

Steve Gantz 10 years, 10 months ago

It rarely gets the best games. The best games end up on ESPN or one of the networks. I've been watching it from day 1 when Appalachian St. beat Michigan.

ebizzle 10 years, 10 months ago

The Big 10 network is on basic cable and HD on Time Warner in Ohio. Fox Sports doesn't even have an HD channel out here. The Big 10 network maybe a joke in Kansas, but to the 100 million people in Big 10 land it is a big influence.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 10 months ago

I say mutiny! If the 9 remaining schools dissolve the big 12 and slide into other conferences leaving Texas standing there with a wad of cash and nobody to play.

jhox 10 years, 10 months ago

There are a lot of rumors down in Texas that this is the final straw, and that A&M wants out of the conference. June will be a telling time for the Big 12's future. I believe that's when the new TV contract is due. The Big 12 better come up with the money promised the other schools, or it could spell the end. The Big East contract is up in 2013. They're talking about triple the money they get now. If that happens, they could become a viable alternative for KU, MU and KSU.

Interesting times ahead.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 10 months ago

It's too bad OU didn't have any balls last year. If they stand up to Texas like aTm tried then Texas doesn't have this deal.

jhox 10 years, 10 months ago

I never fully understood OU siding with Texas at that time either, and I still don't. Though they did come out OK getting larger revenue guarantees like Texas and A&M. The other issue with them is OSU. They're likely tied to OSU much the same way that we're tied to KSU. That will limit thier options, and probably had a lot to do with why they were considering going to the pac 10 with the other Big 12 schools at the time. That could also limit their ability to go to the SEC with A&M.

I also suspect they had no idea how big the TLN deal would be revenue wise for Texas. I'm sure they were thinking they could get a somewhat comparable individual deal. I ithink it is the size of the deal that is freaking everyone out, not to mention the unfair recruiting advantage it will create for Texas.

clevelandjayhawker 10 years, 10 months ago

Big ten network here is pretty lame, its on basic cable and has the kinds of games no one cares about (ie northwestern vs indiana at 1 then penn st vs minnesota at 4, etc, etc) a majority of the time it has games worth watching being relplayed or some penn st womens volley ball. I hope texas has another sub .500 year!! And I like to watch NBC on saturdays to root against notre dame...they piss me off by starting this silly contract junk, CBS has the SEC, NBC has ND, and then you stuck with whats left on ABC or ESPN to see a game, and here in Ohio you can put it on the big10 network if you need to sleep

Steve Gantz 10 years, 10 months ago

I live in Louisiana and I love the Big 10 network as it gives me plenty of games that aren't making it on ESPN. After KU I cheer on the Badgers big time and really enjoy getting to see them. Yes, they're not always the national interest type games, but they serve a purpose.

Danny Hernandez 10 years, 10 months ago

I still don't understand why Kansas basketball doesn't pursue some type of 12/7 basketball network....Interviews with past and current coaches, players, games... It could work and its not like Kansas alum's don't have deep enough pockets to get it started...Heck, I'd pay the extra 5.00 a month to watch it on a channel that is picked up by Direct TV and the cable companies

tis4tim 10 years, 10 months ago

The Big 10 was not clairvoyant. They took a page out of George Steinbrenner's YES Network.

Also, I would disagree somewhat that TU's new network will be an added recruiting advantage. It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, and just like hearing that damn Train song every time I turn on the radio or seeing that annoying HP commercial which uses the "I've Got a Brand New Pair of Rollerskates" tune by Melanie, 24-hours of the Longhorns may actually work against them in some respects.

Craig Lang 10 years, 10 months ago

I just fail to see how a network that is focused on any single university can get sufficient ratings nationwide. I'll be surprised if this network lasts five years.

Hank Cross 10 years, 10 months ago

This is exactly why I said last summer that the worst of all outcomes happened-the B12 survived. UT was never going anywhere, yet many around here were wetting their pants in fear. Keegan, ever the magical thinking Pollyanna, even cheered KU getting shaken down for its lunch money.

KU and the rest of the Forgotten 5 should have told Bevo that its own tv channel was a no-go and next time all schools should receive an equal split in tv revenue.

If UT and the others went to the P10, the North 4 could've joined the BE, forming the greatest conference in the history of college BB; or, KU and the other 4 could've remained in the B12 and added TCU, Boise State, BYU, UNLV, AFA, Nevada, etc, and easily remained a BCS conference.

jhox 10 years, 10 months ago

The only problem with KU to the Big East, is that right now their TV contract is tiny. There is no way with the shape this athletic department is in financially that they could reduce their TV revenues to 1/3 of what they are currently.

Now when the Big East contract is renewed in 2013, it could be a whole other story.

I would love nothing more than see a bunch of the smaller Big 12 programs stiff Texas and leave the conference, and then have other schools boycott scheduling them if they were an independent. This network deal really limits their abilty to land in another conference.

Hank Cross 10 years, 10 months ago

If the North 4 had gone to the BE, the contracts would have to be re-negotiated. It would've been double-headers on Big Monday and probably 3 other games throughout the week. Games likeMU at Syracuse, UConn at KU and KSU at GTown would all be candidate for the game of the week. The BE tourney would've been better than the NCAA.

kureader 10 years, 10 months ago

One would think the NCAA would spend more time worrying about this type of activity ... where individual teams set up their own franchise outside the NCAA conference. The NCAA is too busy making sure that an NCAA player doesn't sell his high school jersey on EBAY.

jhox 10 years, 10 months ago

I believe it is outside their jourisdiction. I believe the courts took that away from them years ago when the BCS alliance forced the issue.

I could be wrong about that, but I just don't think they have the authority to do that. At one time I believe they did until the BCS forced a change.

kureader 10 years, 10 months ago

Jhox, you may be right. Though my 40 year observations of the NCAA have shown that they don't believe there is anything out side their jurisdiction. So why is this different? They certainly have bargaining power ... did they excercise it here, or were they too busy hunting down college kids who sold their high school jerseys? This is perhaps another excuse to bash the NCAA, but the fact is, they should be bashed from here into next week The NCAA needs supervision. They're a bunch of arrogant clowns.

Brian Skelly 10 years, 10 months ago

UT isnt going anywhere. They have the best of both worlds. Conference scheduling and affiliation that clearly will cowtow to their needs, and their own cash cow to blow away not just the rest of the conference, but probably the rest of D-I athletic departments --- which for the most part they were already doing.

Everyone talks how this will be the 'demise of the Big 12'. I dont see that happening. The other big conferences arent going to put up with UTs bull.

As ive said before, and you hear it in references Self makes about the topic. KU needs to put its best foot forward and get a deal done with either ESPN or Fox. Of course it wont be close to the vicinity of UT's, but it never has been either.

I'd have to imagine that if ESPNs deal with the SEC allows schools to form their own network, your going to see the same thing with the Big 12. And since they've already lassoed UT, they'll bring the others along for the ride.

I dont think this is the apocalyptic scenario everyone is talking about. But KU does have to be aggressive about this. They're are ahead of the game with the internet / digital stuff. In reality, they're ahead of the game when it comes to KU hoops on TV. They now have to maximize that as far as they can.

We'll see what happens.

ampthatman 10 years, 10 months ago

You mentioned KU and "the internet/digital stuff", which reminds me of a question I've had for a long time--when I graduated and left Lawrence and moved to Tennessee, I got sirius radio basically only so I could listen to KU FB/BB broadcasts. It was great for the first season and then after that, I started to notice that KU was never broadcast anymore. This was in 2006 and since then I've gotten rid of sirius but now have XM. And I've still never come across a Kansas game broadcast (granted I haven't looked terribly hard lately since I now live closer to the area). Back then, I checked the sports schedule week after week and EVERY Big XII game was always broadcast, unless it involved Kansas. So does KU have some exclusive digital radio deal that restricts Sirius and/or XM from broadcasting them? Anyone?

jhox 10 years, 10 months ago

I agree with you to the extent that Texas isn't going anywhere. I think this deal ties them to the Big 12. They're firmer than they've ever been with the conference. They have their cake and they're eating it too.

Who knows what will ultimately happen here (there are way too many moving parts to predict it), but if I had to make my best guess right now, I would guess A&M threatens to walk, the Texas legislature jumps in and tells Texas they have to share some of those revenues with the other Texas based Big 12 schools, and Texas will have no choice but give in.

I still believe MU has as much chance to bring down the Big 12 as anyone, other than Texas A&M. If the Big 10 calls, they're gone. Missouri has a lot of TV's. I think that would bring down the conference as we know it, then everyone else scrambles for a place to land.

Hank Cross 10 years, 10 months ago

MU's not going anywhere. The state isn't big enough and their program isn't a national brand to justify the millions of dollars in additional revenue they would need to make it worthwhile to the B10.

LakeShawnee 10 years, 10 months ago

The annoying part is how Texas and the other TX schools came running to us to expand the Big 8 and now this.

Steve Gantz 10 years, 10 months ago

Although I don't think this is the healthiest situation for college sports, there is a thing called free enterprise that is at play here. Maybe the market won't support this. Maybe it will.

bcc 10 years, 10 months ago

I think this a huge accomplishment and is the start to a new college sport experience to fans. We will look back at this and will have to explain to future generations how we had to watch sports prior to the new way, this could be as big of a change as pre-ESPN to now. Could you imagine now trying to watch sports if it wasn’t for ESPN?

Most of the nay sayers are simply jealous, and don’t claim that I am a Texas fan trolling on this site, I am a huge KU fan but I am able to look at things without bashing whatever other programs are doing. And for all of you bashing the Big Ten Network, if you have it on your TV, even if you don’t want it or don’t watch it, you are paying into the Big 10 pot.

milwaukeeJAYHAWK 10 years, 10 months ago

This reminds me of the lead-up to World War I. Shaky alliances torn apart by massive imperial ambitions (Germany trying to catch up with others). Creates an unstable situation in where there's no cooperation and it's every dog for themselves.

I'm all for schools competing and free enterprise and all of that, but if the top 20 richest schools (Ohio State, Texas, USCs of this world) get their own networks, get astronomically richer than the rest, they will unbalance things so much to where it will be an even more unstable playing field. They'd have to create their own higher league where they just play each other.

It'll be like Division I teams playing Division III teams. Will be totally uncompetitive and ruin it.

That's why the NFL works so well.....revenue sharing. No Yankees/Red Sox monetary dominance.

Call it communism if you want. Sure works for them.

Hank Cross 10 years, 10 months ago

That's what sucks about the NFL. Commitment to mediocity. I don't care if the Seahawks did beat the Saints, teams with losing records shouldn't be in the playoffs.

Ludwig Supraphonic 10 years, 10 months ago

It doesn't seem that Notre Dame negotiating it's own football package has resulted in a recruiting advantage. I receive the Big 10 channel and have no interest in their games. Availability doesn't necessarily result in expended viewership. Most college interest is local; combined with the aumni outside the region. Mr. Sharp reports the Pac # and SEC wouldn't tollerate an already rich school flaunting its drawing power. A rather socialistic view, that Northwestern or Vanderbilt deserve an equal slice of the pie with less alumni, a lower quality product, and less investment. Kind of reminds me of parenting. None of us want a normal kid. We want successful, high achieving, joyful offspring. I want KU to be dominant in everything, including football. No other school has any obligation to carry us there.

slowplay 10 years, 10 months ago

I could care less. I'll let those above my pay grade handle the pros and cons and what effects this will have on the Big 12. Personally, I think KU would be a nice fit in the ACC, a basketball conference that just happens to field some football teams. Also, the Big Nine has a nice ring to it.

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