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ESPN and FOX give Big 12 big boost, agree to open discussions about new TV deal.

News dropped today that the two networks have agreed to start discussions on a possible extension of the current TV deal, a move that could go a long way to answer some realignment questions.
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During all the rumors and speculation surrounding the fate of the Big 12 and Pac 12 conferences, one big selling point remained in the favor of the conference out west. With their negotiation window moved up to engage with ESPN about a potential media deal, they were going to be the first conference to be able to give their membership (and potential additions) concrete numbers about the amount of money that they will make in the next few seasons.

But that advantage is likely about to vanish. It was reported that ESPN and FOX have agreed to start discussions with the Big 12 conference on a new media deal. This is especially notable given that the two networks rebuffed attempts by the Big 12 to accelerate those discussions back in May of 2021, shortly before Oklahoma and Texas announced that they would be leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC.

What's not clear at this point is exactly when or if negotiations will begin, or at what point Brett Yormark and the Big 12 will start to see concrete numbers. It is also not clear whether this would be an extension of the current deal or a brand new deal that would start at the conclusion of the current deal. While those are functionally very similar, some of the nuances of those differences may be important.

But ultimately the big story here is how this development might affect the current struggle, at least in the media, between the Big 12 and Pac 12 for survival. There are plenty of reasons why the Big 12 would want to acquire some of the Pac 12 schools and why those schools would pursue membership in the Big 12, but there have still been some good reasons to think they would stay put.

The biggest of those has been the potential certainty of a Pac 12 offer versus the hope of more money from the Big 12. When the details of a new Big 12 deal were still potentially 18 months away, it's easy to make a credible argument for locking in a likely smaller but "good enough" amount in the Pac 12.

But that is likely to change. IF the Big 12 can get preliminary numbers and IF those numbers are significantly higher than what the Pac 12 is likely to bring in, then that information might be the final push needed to kick start the next round of realignment. But we'll have to wait and see if the Big 12 can extract significantly more value in this next deal, or if the Big Ten media deal ate up the majority of the available cash remaining.

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