The Sports Business Journal is reporting that the University of Oklahoma is close to finalizing an agreement with Fox Sports for its own television sports network. The expected announcement would come less than a year after Texas created a great deal of controversy and consternation by launching the Longhorn Network, is through a multi-year agreement with ESPN.
Oklahoma's reported agreement with Fox includes 1,000 hours a year of Oklahoma athletic and special-events programming on the cable network's Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports Oklahoma regional networks. The two regional networks reach 8.6 million homes in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and even Texas. On a somewhat humorous note, cable customers in Austin, Texas, home of the Longhorns, don't have access to the Longhorn network, according to Sports Business Journal. Starting next fall, after the deal is finalized with Fox, Austin residents will be able to receive branded programming from UT's bitter rivals in the Sooner State.
The name of the OU network has not been decided, but those close to the discussions between Fox and Oklahoma officials believe it will be something like Sooner Network or Oklahoma Network.
Because discussions are still ongoing, details of the OU's contract with Fox Sports were not available, but all indications are that the financial terms will be much less than Texas agreement with ESPN for the Longhorn Network, both in terms of the financial value and the length of the contract. The Longhorn Network, which officially launched on Aug. 26 last year, is valued at $300 million over 15 years, which amounts to $20 million a year in third-tier television revenue for Texas, paid out over a life of 15 years.
The advantage for schools in the Big 12 Conference to have their own TV network is that revenue received from third-tier rights do not have to be shared with the rest of the schools in the conference. This is different than the shared-revenue policies in other major conferences, such as the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, and was a pivotal point leading to the decisions by Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri to break away from the Big 12.
According to industry sources, the Sports Business Journal said, an agreement hasn't yet been signed, but Oklahoma officials have moved into exclusive negotiations with the cable network and both sides have agreed to several big issues that would make Fox the exclusive regional home for Oklahoma athletics. There is expected to be a broadband component to the agreement as well, Sports Business Journal reports.