Quietly, TBS has discontinued their coverage of college football, leaving FSN as the sole rights-holder to Big XII games on cable. Previously, FSN subleased rights to TBS, with one network taking a Pac-10 game and the other getting a Big XII game each week.
Big deal? In terms of the future of the Big XII, yes it is. Accordng to the San Antonio Express-News, Big XII games could end up being on FSN or possibly the NFL Network ... which is potentially bad news in terms of exposure. FSN games frequently are pre-empted in some markets nationwide for local coverage of baseball, basketball, or hockey. The NFL Network is still struggling to be added to cable systems nationwide, usually being relegated to digital cable. The $8.40 they charge cable companies each year doesn't help either.
Other ideas that have been considered were a Saturday Night Football package on the Fox broadcast network, as well as other cable channels, such as Versus. The Fox package sounds intriguing if it could somehow get pulled off; certainly would be more compelling than "America's Most Wanted" or "Cops".
But short of a Fox nationwide broadcast, the cable options are very unappetizing. TBS is one of the most popular cable channels nationwide, and certainly more than any of the alternatives being discussed. What's worse is that the Big XII is committed to the FSN deal for another 5 years. So while the Big XII will get the money, teams won't get the exposure.
A lot of people would like to point towards ESPN as a solution, but ESPN's schedule is already packed with comittments to carry Big 10/11, SEC, ACC, Big East, and now Pac-10 games.
The Big XII conference seems to have the worst TV deal of any of the major conferences. Notre Dame and the SEC have exclusive deals with NBC and CBS that guarentees them national coverage. The other BCS conferences have deals with ABC and ESPN that give them regional coverage on ABC and nationwide coverage on an ESPN network. The Big XII deal only gives them regional coverage on ABC and coverage to "most of the US" on the FSN regional networks.
Will inferior coverage hurt the Big XII in the future? It's a very real possibility, as the ESPN hype machine may not pay as much attention to Big XII games since they don't have the rights to them. That lesser coverage could impact the decisions of not only recruits, but also the commitment of schools such as Colorado and Tejas, as they might find it lucrative to change conferences in the future in search of better TV deals. Remember, the Big XII was formed as the bigger schools in the Southwest Conference (and likewise the old Big 8) were looking for a better platform to market their programs.
Moving Big XII football games off of TBS to inferior, lesser cable networks such as FSN has the effect of marginalizing the conference and their teams.