Sports Business Journal is reporting that OU and Fox Sports have agreed — not signed, only agreed — to a partnership for a quasi-Sooner Network. It won’t be one channel solely dedicated to OU, but Fox Sports would carry 1,000 hours of Sooner programming a year. Discounting the summer, that’s 111 hours a month, which is 27-28 hours a week. Basically four hours a day, on average.
That’s not 24 hours a day, like the Longhorn Network, but as everyone in the business discovered or knew from the get-go, 24 hours a day isn’t required. Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds himself told Texas A&M officials a few years ago that UT didn’t have enough content to fill out an exclusive channel; he asked the Aggies to go into partnership.
Texas got its 24-hour network, anyway, thanks to ESPN and its still-mysterious plan to guarantee Tier I money for Tier III content.
OU won’t get anywhere near $15 million a year, but OU will get an excellent outlet for its athletic content. Fox Sports — which in Oklahoma is Fox Sports Oklahoma (home of the Thunder) and in Texas is Fox Sports Southwest — is an excellent distributor. FSN can show programming on Fox Sports (channel 37, if you’ve got Cox Cable) or Fox Sports Plus (channel 68). The OU-Missouri basketball game Tuesday night, for example, was on Fox Sports Plus.
This kind of deal saves the Sooners from huge startup costs. OU had good infrastructure already; a quality studio and production staff that already has been turning out super projects like the DVD history of OU football. But to start a network and hire sales staff and extra talent and find distributors, well, that’s a killer. That’s where ESPN propped up Texas, accounting for enormous startup costs. And the distribution remains a huge problem for The Longhorn Network, since the major cable and satellite providers have not signed on.
Fox Sports already is up and running with everyone.
OU won’t get its content into California or Florida or New York. FSN is primarily Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. But the deal, according to Sports Business Journal, includes extensive Internet rights, so far-flung Sooners could have access via the web.
The agreement appears to be the same as The Longhorn Network in terms of content — at least one football game per year, several men’s and women’s basketball games, plus other sports and even non-athletic programming. I don’t know how the latter would work; I can’t believe Fox Sports Net is too excited about televising the OU commencement or a visiting political speaker. Maybe we’re talking some 3 a.m. telecasts.
But all in all, this is precisely what serves OU best. No one was going to give OU a bunch of money for Tier III athletic events (whatever ESPN and Fox Sports don’t want, basically). These university-branded networks were really about promotion until The Longhorn Network/ESPN deal. That’s monopoly money that is not available in the real world. So OU’s deal with Fox serves the university best.