Friday, July 30, 2021

ESPN Fires Back At Big 12 Conference

ESPN fired back at the Big 12 on Thursday with a letter disputing the allegations made by the conference and commissioner Bob Bowlsby, reports Yahoo! Sports.

The Big 12 sent ESPN a cease and desist letter on Wednesday saying the network "has taken certain actions that are intended to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN." The Big 12 also said that ESPN was working with an unnamed conference — the American, per Yahoo Sports sources — to absorb remaining members of the Big 12 after Texas and Oklahoma leave for the SEC.

ESPN said Thursday that the Big 12's claims were baseless.

“The accusations you have made are entirely without merit," a letter from ESPN's Burke Magnus to the Big 12 said. "Apart from a single vague allegation that ESPN has been ‘actively engaged in discussions with at least one other’ unnamed conference, which ESPN disputes, your letter consists entirely of unsubstantiated speculation and legal conclusions. To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct and, thus, there is nothing to ‘cease and desist.’”

ESPN owns the SEC Network and the ACC Network and would stand to benefit from the addition of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC. While ESPN owns some Big 12 football rights, Fox is the league's primary rights holder and has the first choice of Big 12 games along with Big Ten games. 

Adding OU and Texas would mean ESPN would pay more for SEC rights — but also have more inventory and the ability to charge more for ads and subscriptions. A dissolution of the Big 12 would also mean that ESPN wouldn't be on the hook for the remainder of its TV contract with the conference. 

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