Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent.
When it was announced on Wednesday that the University of Texas and ESPN had come to terms on a 20-year, $300 million agreement to create a 24-hour television network largely dedicated to broadcasting Longhorn sports, we entered a new era of college sports on a variety of different levels. What exactly this new era will look like remains to be seen, but the Texas move, which they have been angling in on for years, but most intensively since they turned down the Pac-10’s offer this summer, will reverberate around the world of college athletics.
Texas Keeps Expanding Its Reach and Redefining College Sports Media
First let’s look at some of the details of the deal. The network, launching in September, will be developed and managed by ESPN. According to the Austin American-Statesman, of the $300 million, 82.5% or $247.5 million is guaranteed to Texas, with the other $52.5 million promised to IMG College, which handles marketing and licensing for the university. According to Texas president Bill Powers, the university will receive about $10 million per year during the first five years of the contract, half of which will “be devoted to academic and faculty support” and half of which will head to UT Athletics. This $10 million annually will grow over the course of the contract, and Texas can expect an average of $12.4 million per year above and beyond their share of the Big 12’s television agreements. Currently, Texas receives approximately $14-15 million from those existing agreements (a number which will grow to $20 million next year with the departure of Nebraska and Colorado), and with the additional income from the new deal will earn more than $30 million per year from their television deals. All told, this new network is only guaranteed one football game and eight men’s basketball games, although it may get a few more in the early years of the contract and perhaps even more down the road. But, the crux of these numbers bears repeating: ESPN essentially gave Texas $247.5 million to air one football game and eight basketball games a year over the next 20 years.
This is by no means the first example of an individual school striking out on its own to pursue its own television contracts. Notre Dame’s football deal with NBC in 1991 was the first such example, and it was indeed a blockbuster, but given their lack of ties to a conference there were few immediate ripples. Gonzaga basketball has its own television deal with Spokane’s KHQ-TV and FSN Northwest, independent of the West Coast Conference’s television deals. And BYU, just this past summer, decided to break away from the MWC and move ahead as an independent in football, with a brand new contract with ESPN and with plans to air additional sports content on its own network, BYUtv. But given the size and stature of the Texas athletic department, this development is a whole different animal, and its repercussions are numerous and considerable.
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