Big 12

Big 12, ESPN+ agree to deal: Some KU, K-State games will be streaming only

Third-tier media rights that have been owned by Big 12 schools will now belong to ESPN, the conference and cable sports network announced on Wednesday.

Among the biggest changes: Kansas Jayhawks basketball fans will need a subscription to the ESPN+ streaming service to watch the two exhibition and four KU nonconference games that have previously aired on local cable and TV networks. Similar Kansas State basketball games, as well as one KU and one K-State football game per season are also going to live streaming instead of cable or over-the-air broadcasts, though they can still be streamed on a traditional TV.

Entities like the Jayhawk Network will no longer exist. Content that formerly appeared on those networks will be available through the Big 12 branded ESPN+ platform.

Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor will join ESPN+ starting the 2019-20 school year. Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia join for 2020-21.

Texas and Oklahoma will not produce and deliver programming for ESPN+ but their conference road games will be part of the new platform.

“Our fan base can now go to one place and find all of our games,” K-State athletic director Gene Taylor said. “They don’t have to try and figure out if they are on the Kansas State website or Fox Sports. That was the big local reason for this. Also, as we start to renegotiate our broadcast deal in 2024, I think it strengthens the league. Our next provider will have all the rights.”

ESPN+ is a subscription-based streaming service. Currently, it costs $4.99 per month after a free seven-day trial period. ESPN+ can be viewed on a mobile phone or tablet, or through a device that plays streaming content on a television, like Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV or others.

According to Sports Business Journal Daily, ESPN will pay the conference about $40 million for these new rights from 2019-24 in addition to what it pays for existing deals. A source confirmed the dollar amount to The Star. The schools will equally share the distribution, as they do with Tier 1 and Tier 2 — network and cable — rights.

“That is still being worked through,” Taylor said. “How that all trickles down to each individual institution is to be determined. It may not be a ton more money right now per institution.”

Tier 1 and Tier 2 rights for the 2017-18 school year helped the Big 12 contribute an average of $36.5 million per school. That figure, like the one for 2018-19, does not include third-tier revenue.

The Big 12 has been the only Power Five conference that allows schools to control and monetize third-tier rights. That has included one football game per school every season and a handful of basketball games.

Kansas put those games on the Jayhawk Network, which has aired on Spectrum Sports Kansas City, Midco Sports Network in Lawrence, Cox Cable in Kansas and KMCI (Channel 38) in Kansas City, in addition to making them available nationwide on ESPN+.

“While this decision means a change in how our local and regional fans watch a few early-season games... we also know more and more Jayhawk fans look to digital platforms to watch their favorite programming,” KU athletic director Jeff Long said.

Last season, Kansas State games appeared on the K-State Sports Network, a subscription streaming service on the school’s website, and Fox Sports Kansas City. Those events will move to ESPN+ as will all games not distributed on ESPN’s linear networks, one football game, women’s basketball and other sports such as volleyball, soccer, wrestling, softball and baseball, plus Big 12 championships and other programming, according to the league.

Each of the eight schools will provide more than 50 exclusive events during the school year.

“Our goal was to be forward thinking in the use of technology to create a conference-branded platform and believe this partnership ideally positions the Big 12 now and into the foreseeable future,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement.

The Big 12 and ESPN also announced that the football championship game will carried on ABC or ESPN through 2024.

Last month, the American Athletic Conference agreed to a 12-year, $1 billion media rights deal with ESPN that would stream the majority of men’s basketball games on ESPN+, although a minimum of 65 would air on the ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU cable networks.

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