When the Big 12 Conference elected not to expand last October, eulogies for the league spread far and wide. Without expansion, it was thought, the 10-team Big 12 would continue to fall further and further behind the rest of the Power Five.
It’s been a year since the conference officially announced it would consider expansion, and commissioner Bob Bowlsby would have you believe he has found another way to gain a financial edge.
At least that’s the way he framed the league’s position in remarks for an ESPN article titled “Remember when the Big 12 was going to expand …” which published Wednesday. Bowlsby spoke of the Big 12’s lack of a linear TV network as a potential advantage moving forward, as traditional media outlets continue to hemorrhage money.
With the ACC set to launch its network in 2019, the Big 12 will become the only Power Five conference without a TV network. Currently schools are able to negotiate their own contracts for tier three games like the ones that air on Longhorn Network.
“Frankly, the traditional linear network is obsolete technology,” Bowlsby told ESPN. “We have a long ways to go, but I like the flexibility we have right now. … We see some opportunities on the horizon.”
Of course, Bowlsby is referring to online streaming from non-traditional outlets, which seems a natural response to the demand for live sports from cord-cutting millennials. As the ESPN article mentions, Amazon and Twitter have already shelled out big money for the rights to broadcast games.
Companies like Netflix and Hulu are surely not far behind. Is the Big 12, which has become a laughingstock for its struggle to keep up with conference realignment and the changing media landscape, really about to turn the tables?
At the very least, the notion is intriguing.
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