The Big 12’s broadcast partners will remain ESPN and Fox under the new media deals they signed last fall, albeit with a 90 percent jump in average annual value despite the exits of Texas and Oklahoma. But Big 12 broadcasts may have some rather different elements in the new future. And those look set to start even before the new broadcast deals kick in (ahead of the 2025-26 season; they run through the 2030-31 season).
Brandon Marcello of 247 Sports has a piece on some of the Big 12’s plans under commissioner Brett Yormark, who took that job last year. His plans include regular games in Mexico and expanded access both ahead of games and during games. And Marcello writes that the expanded access could start as soon as this fall’s football broadcasts:
The #Big12 is ready to do what no other college conference offers: a "peek under the hood" with behind-the-scenes access during football broadcasts.
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) May 3, 2023
Here’s more on that from that piece:
Coaches and administrators were told Wednesday change is imminent for the Big 12’s television product. ESPN and FOX representatives offered presentations on expanded coverage of games to athletic directors and football coaches during its spring meetings here this week. The plan was sparked by Yormark, who seeks unique content and expanded access to coaches and players for television broadcasts and social media. The networks’ presentation included proof-of-concept clips from professional leagues and pitches from ESPN and FOX on-air personalities, sources tell 247Sports. The behind-the-scenes concept includes in-game interviews with coaches, and pre- and post-game access inside locker rooms, according to Sports Illustrated. The conference is also exploring whether it can attach microphones to coaches and players during games to record audio to air later during the game, sources tell 247Sports.
The behind-the-scenes access is expected to begin as soon as this football season, sources tell 247Sports. “It’s not coming,” a Big 12 coach told 247Sports. “It’s now.”
“As we define our conference as one of innovation and access, obviously working with our broadcast partners is critically important,” Yormark told 247Sports. “So we had great presentations in front of our ADs and coaches to kind of see how far we want to go. We’re excited about it. It helps to define who we are as a conference, a brand, and, obviously, for the viewing experience. We want to bring our fans closer to what we do, and give them a peek under the hood. And all the other professional leagues are doing it. Not to say we’re antiquated, but it’s time for us to be a little bit more progressive, and we’d like to take a leadership position in that area.”
The in-game mic’d up concept has been used in several different ways across sports, but this would be new to college football. We’ve seen it extensively in Major League Baseball, and we’ve seen it a bit in college basketball, with Fox putting mics on officials and ESPN micing coaches (sometimes with unexpected results). And we’ve certainly seen it in football, from live player and coach mics in leagues like the CFL (sometimes under protest!) and XFL to mic’d replay officials in the AAF and XFL (sometimes with undesirable results), and with mics producing content for later in the NFL and USFL.
The Big 12 concept sounds more like a mix between those ideas, with the content still designed for in-game use, but on a delay rather than live (something we’ve also seen elsewhere). That has some, if not the full, advantages of immediacy, but also has the advantages of editorial selection and avoiding hot-mic missteps. However, it should be noted that college football coaches have often been some of the most controlling when it comes to media and broadcast comments (sometimes even after leaving college football for the NFL), which is part of why these concepts have taken off in “all the other professional leagues” before college football. So this may not be an entirely easy sell.
The other part of Marcello’s article worth noting is Yormark’s discussion of regular games in Mexico (in Monterrey for football and Mexico City for basketball, possibly starting as early as 2025), and why the conference wants to do that. Here’s some of that:
“It’s a critically important market,” Yormark said. “It’s becoming an event capital when you think of professional sports — F1, NBA, Major League Baseball, the NFL. Geographically, it is certainly on the heels of our conference footprint with 22 million consumers.”
The specific note of 22 million consumers is interesting, as that seems to be potentially considering more than just the numbers of Mexican residents who would attend these games in person. Games in Mexico might be a pathway to a larger broadcast deal there. And exploring and building that market certainly makes some sense for the Big 12 from a geographic standpoint. We’ll see what they do with that, and we’ll see how this plan for expanded access goes for them.