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Amid College Sports Cash Grab, Big 12 Hires WME Sports and IMG to Lead Media Strategy

The Hollywood Reporter 9/29/2022 Alex Weprin
© David Purdy/Getty Images

The Big 12 college athletics conference is aiming to carve out a larger piece of the increasingly lucrative market for collegiate sports.

With the Big Ten just signing an $8 billion deal with NBC, CBS, and Fox, and the SEC inking a $3 billion deal with Disney in 2020, the Big 12 is hoping to make a splash of its own.

And so on Thursday the conference said that it has hired WME Sports and IMG Media to lead its content and media strategy, including negotiations with potential TV partners, sales analytics and valuation, and conference composition.

WME Sports and IMG Media just so happen to be the same advisors that led the Big Ten to its record-shattering deal. The Big Ten struck its new deal after adding UCLA and USC, which left the PAC 12 conference. The Big 12, meanwhile, lost two of its powerhouses, Texas and Oklahoma, to the SEC, and responded by adding BYU, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF to its roster of schools.

The Big 12’s current members include Baylor, Texas Tech, the University of Kansas and Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia State.

The revolving door of schools is necessarily to maximize the deals the conferences make with TV partner. For the Big Ten, adding the southern California teams gave them a national scope and a local rivalry. Likewise, the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is well-established.

The media rights deals are the primary funding vehicle for college athletics at the schools, so even though football and basketball typically dominate viewership, the money the deals provide do flow down to other sports that may not be as popular with TV viewers.

Now WME and IMG will attempt to figure out how the Big 12 can forge its most compelling offering. But it will also “advise on the use of data, sports wagering, NFTs, and IP” and “help develop premium fan experiences,” per the conference. WME Sports’ Karen Brodkin and Mike Zavodsky and IMG Media’s Hillary Mandel will lead the effort.

“We have aligned with a best-in-class team to build a best-in-class business strategy for the Conference,” said Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark in a statement. “As we ‘Open for Business’ to elevate the Big 12, the expertise and knowledge WME Sports and IMG Media bring to the table is critically important to analyze and evaluate the merit of commercial initiatives that strengthen our brand.” 

“We are proud to bring the full power of the Endeavor network to bear for the Big 12,” added Karen Brodkin. “Brett and his team are innovating, upgrading and commercially accelerating value across the full spectrum of Conference assets, including media, content, partnerships, championship events, music, entertainment, international events and Web3, and we look forward to partnering with them to realize all of their ambitions.”

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