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BYU and the Big 12: How BYUtv would affect the Big 12's TV deals

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2013 2:00 p.m. MST

Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley #8 of the Texas Longhorns hurdles defensive back Joe Sampson #5 of the BYU Cougars in the fourth quarter on September 10, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Texas defeated BYU 17-16. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images) (Erich Schlegel, Getty Images) Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley #8 of the Texas Longhorns hurdles defensive back Joe Sampson #5 of the BYU Cougars in the fourth quarter on September 10, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Texas defeated BYU 17-16. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images) (Erich Schlegel, Getty Images)

This is part three of four in a series regarding BYU's potential inclusion in the Bowl Championship series and the Big 12 conference. Part two reviewed issues relating to the nature of the Big 12 and Sunday play. In this article, Ryan Teeples addresses BYU's high-definition international television network, BYUtv, and the potential concerns the Big-12 could have with its programming.

BYUtv and Tier-3 programming

The other TV issue involves so-called tier-3 rights. Oft misunderstood, these are broadcast rights to games which are passed up for airing by the top-tier broadcasting partners, in this case ABC/ESPN and Fox.

Most conferences contract their tier-3 rights for revenue to be split among conference members. They have created their own networks to monetize these events. This is a key distinction as it relates to conference expansion — or complacency — of the Big 12.

Tom Holmoe is interviewed for a web cast at the start of BYU Football media in the BYU Broadcast Building on June 27, 2012 (Jaren Wilkey, BYU) Tom Holmoe is interviewed for a web cast at the start of BYU Football media in the BYU Broadcast Building on June 27, 2012 (Jaren Wilkey, BYU)

The Big Ten, for instance, has its own network. The conference has willfully and rapidly expanded its conference into new television markets by adding new members. Each additional market the conference adds where the Big Ten Network is carried on cable systems and lower-tiers of satellite programming means more dollars directly into the budgets of member schools' athletic departments. So adding Rutgers and getting in the millions of homes in the New York metropolitan area increases the size of the pie enough to make adding another mouth to feed a cash-positive proposition, in theory at least.

The Big 12, however, due to the desire — or threatenings — of Texas to have The Longhorn Network leaves its tier-3 rights up to the home team. So there’s no immediately realized financial incentive for the conference to expand into new markets unless it can convince its teir-1 and tier-2 TV partners that the expansion is significant enough cause for renegotiation.

T. Boone Pickens speaks regarding foreign oil dependence during a town hall meeting Sept 11, 2008 in Salt Lake City. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) T. Boone Pickens speaks regarding foreign oil dependence during a town hall meeting Sept 11, 2008 in Salt Lake City. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Big 12 Associate Commissioner Bob Burda stated in May 2012 that passing tier-3 rights to the schools is a good thing.

"What it has done is created additional revenue stream for our institutions so they can monetize sporting events that are not selected for television through the conference's broadcast rights," Burda said.

"Those rights have been freed up significantly under the television contract. Under the old contract, any games that were not selected were warehoused by FOX and then the school would need approval by FOX to show those games in their local market."

It is natural to think this makes BYU a good fit since it’s essentially already monetizing its own tier-3 rights, but in this case BYUtv becomes an issue on the con side of the sheet for some Big 12 schools.

An aerial view of Brigham Young University. (BYU photo) An aerial view of Brigham Young University. (BYU photo)

The other non-Oklahoma/Texas schools still have to figure out how to monetize tier-3 rights. They don’t have impressive 18-wheel mobile HDTV production studios. And it’s a significant investment to build such infrastructure.

The schools that don’t have their own networks for tier-3 programming have talked about creating one collectively. To do this, you need programming. The more the better. There are a lot more hours in the day than sporting events to fill it, and re-runs don’t make big advertising dollars.

So some Big 12 schools look at BYU as a partner that’s another Texas (or Oklahoma) which won’t contribute to helping line their wallets with tier-3 TV programming and revenue, and they certainly won’t help provide Sunday content unless people in backwoods Big 12 outposts like Morgantown want to watch Music and the Spoken Word, which they might.

This is part three of four in a series regarding BYU's potential inclusion in the Bowl Championship series and the Big 12 conference. Part four will address issues relating to personal bias Big 12 members could conceivably carry against BYU.

Ryan Teeples (twitter.com/SportsGuyUtah) is a respected marketing and technology expert, full-time sports fan and owner of Ryan Teeples Consulting, Inc. (RyanTeeples.com).

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