Oklahoma, Fox Sports Partnership Creates Sooner Sports TV

It’s been years in the making, and now the University of Oklahoma officially has its own television-rights deal.

The 10-year multiplatform agreement creates Sooner Sports TV and provides for at least 1,000 hours of OU sports programming annually on Fox Sports outlets, including Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Southwest, and Fox College Sports. For the Sooners, it’s not quite having their own 24/7 linear channel — à la Longhorn Network — but it’s awfully close and won’t require the stresses that come with cable-distribution battles.

“We have a great deal of experience working with [Fox Sports] in our Big 12 relationship since the inception of our conference,” says OU VP/Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione. “To create a campus-centric approach, which is unique, is exciting, and we appreciate them listening to our vision and for allowing us to understand their vision for their company and to find a way to bring it all together.”

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but it was announced that all income derived from the partnership will go to the university. Fox Sports Southwest SVP/GM Jon Heidtke acknowledged that the network will offer additional financial support to OU for facilities and equipment upgrades needed during the term of the deal.

The announcement comes less than a week after the Big 12 settled its television agreement with ESPN and Fox Sports. Beyond the games selected by the national broadcasters, the Big 12 is one of the few remaining Division I conferences that allow their schools to keep live-broadcast rights in-house, allowing each school to retain one football game per season.

“We value the opportunity that we have had as a member of the Big 12 to explore and develop a television package that best fits our needs and our audience,” notes Castiglione.

In addition to over-the-air offerings, the partnership includes a significant digital component. Online resources will feature extensive “all-access” content not televised on Fox Sports networks. Such material will include live streaming, archived games, and additional content created exclusively for the Web.

Nearly all of the production responsibilities will fall onto the school’s already highly productive SoonerVision, which produced as many as 250 events last year alone — 65 of which were distributed to local television affiliates.

“We’ve had staff gaining more and more experience producing and distributing certain events,” says Castiglione. “There’s some really special things that we can do here because of our staff.”

That staff includes Brandon Meier, assistant athletic director, broadcast operations, who was hired in summer 2007 and began to construct the road to Wednesday’s announcement. Since then, the university made the investment to connect all of its on-campus athletic facilities via fiber, upgraded to HD video boards in-venue, and built a pair of HD control rooms inside Oklahoma Memorial Stadium that allow simultaneous video-board and television production.

OU made a large, multimillion-dollar investment up front with its gear purchases. From there, incremental buys helped keep the operation on the cutting edge of technology.

“We had the thought that this equipment could be used in many more ways than just on game day,” says Castiglione. “We understand the importance of creating a great game-day presentation, but we thought, if we were creative, we could create multipurposes for this equipment and get the best possible equipment that was out there in the marketplace. So those production facilities have developed over the past four to five years with an eye on this particular day coming.”

The formal announcement on Wednesday comes in a retroactive nature, dating back to Sept. 1, prior to Oklahoma football’s matchup with UTEP, which aired on FS Southwest. Fox Sports Oklahoma and Fox Sports Southwest also aired a pregame show prior to the start of the Sooners football game vs. Florida A&M this past Saturday. The game was televised on pay-per-view because it wasn’t selected for over-the-air broadcast or cable television coverage — a result that will now likely be avoided under the newly established agreement.

So what exactly will be available on Sooner Sports TV? Here’s the preliminary programming slate from an official Fox Sports release:

  • Football: encore presentations of Oklahoma games originally televised on Fox and other networks, as well as the annual Spring Game
  • Men’s Basketball: approximately eight exclusive Sooner games per season, plus selected encores
  • Women’s Basketball: selected exclusive games, plus encores
  • Olympic Sports: exclusive events and encores of selected events, including baseball, softball, volleyball, wrestling, soccer, and men’s and women’s gymnastics

Original Programming and Studio Shows:

OU Football Press Conference
OU – Review (weekly encore)
Sooner Football With Bob Stoops

Sooner Sports Game Day (pregame show)
Sooner Sports Overtime
(postgame show, home games only)
Sooner Sports Pad

Coach’s Corner
Sooner Sports Talk
Sooner Basketball With Sherri Coale
Sooner Hoops With Lon Kruger
Rounding Third (baseball/softball)
Sooner Sports Weekly
(spring sports)

Learfield Sports, OU’s multimedia-rights holder, participated in the agreement and will serve in a marketing and development capacity for a portion of the programming sponsorships.

According to Fox Sports, Lee H. Berke, president/CEO of LHB Sports, Entertainment and Media Inc., served in an advisory capacity on the development of Sooner Sports TV. Neal Pilson of Pilson Communications also provided direction.

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