The creation of a conference network has skyrocketed to the list of priorities for the Big 12 during this offseason. With the SEC printing money and the Big Ten right on its heels, the Big 12 is hungry for its piece of the pie.
Yet there might not be a worst time to create a TV network with the hope it becomes a mainstay on cable networks throughout the nation. The Pac-12 Network has taught us that, even with live sports programming and tons of live content, a conference television network is not a guaranteed money-maker.
This month, colleague Jake Trotter detailed the obstacles standing between a potential Big 12 Network and lucrative success.
One intriguing option could be a streaming service full of Big 12 content, past and present, that takes advantage of the ability to stream live content while also featuring on-demand archived Big 12 events. Let’s look at some pros and cons of trying to launch a large-scale streaming service instead of creating a Big 12 television network.
Forward thinking: It’s pretty clear cable television is struggling. Streaming is the future as households realize it’s easier to focus on (and pay for) the content they want instead of paying for channels/content they don’t even watch. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are just a few examples of streaming success the conference could strive to mimic as opposed to trying to launch a cable network during a time when the majority of people are questioning the value of having cable television in their household.
Unique: It’s a out-of-the-box idea that would require full commitment to the relatively unknown, yet also provide an opportunity to do something no other conference has done. Consumers have proven they’re willing to pay for streaming content if they find value in it. The Big 12 could provide that value, particularly if partnered with current streaming behemoth -- like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu -- familiar with the pitfalls of getting a streaming service to maximize its potential.
Already several steps down the road: Several Big 12 schools already have ingredients in place to get the service off the ground without starting from Square 1. Kansas State (K-StateHD.tv) and Iowa State (CyclonesTV) are just a few of the Big 12 schools who already offer a streaming and on-demand option for a fee, while others like Oklahoma (SoonerVision) and Oklahoma State (Orange Power Studios) already have experience broadcasting games with in-house production and have invested in expanding the ability to do so.
Anyone can have access: Individual consumers would no longer be at the mercy of networks. An Iowa State fan in Los Angeles or a Kansas State alum in Atlanta wouldn’t be subject to missing live games while the Pac 12 and SEC take precedence. A simple fee and internet connection solves that problem. True enough, the most valuable live content -- football and basketball -- is largely broadcast nationally anyway, but it’s a problem-solver nonetheless and opens up options nationwide and globally.
Major risk: The road to conference television networks has been traveled and left a roadmap of what to do and what not to do. Starting a streaming service wouldn’t have the same type of blueprint. It would be a new venture requiring a willingness to be a risk-taker while knowing failure is a real possibility.
Uncharted waters: As previously mentioned, the most valuable live content is locked into television contracts with football and basketball games set to be featured by cable networks until the middle of the next decade. Other content like press conferences and other sports could be the perfect playground to find the right mix of value/cost, but would Big 12 fans be willing to pay for the secondary content?
Will it make enough money to prove worthwhile, particularly for the big schools: If you’re one of the Big 12’s signature programs, why tether your valuable content to the rest of the conference? Why not just keep your value for yourself instead of sharing with others? Granted, part of your value comes from being a part of the Big 12 along with the content (i.e. games) that provides, but a school like Texas or Oklahoma brings something different to the table than other schools in the league. These are all questions each school needs to explore as it tries to put itself in the best position in the future.