The Big Ten appears to be close to finalizing its new media rights deal. and as a sports business journalESPN probably won’t be a part of it.
As the SBJ reported Monday night, “barring a last-minute change in direction” in negotiations with ESPN, the Big Ten deal is expected to include three parties: Fox, CBS and NBC.
Fox, which owns a 60% stake in the Big Ten Network, will be the conference’s primary rights holder, along with CBS and NBC.
ESPN’s first deal with the Big Ten was in 2011. Since its launch in 1982, it marks a major shift in the media landscape. ABC also carried Big Ten games for the first time in 1966.
With ESPN out of the equation, Big Ten Saturday could look like this: a noon game on Fox, a 3:30 pm game on CBS and a primetime game on NBC. According to the SBJ, Big Ten games will also be broadcast on FS1 and the Big Ten Network along with Peacock, NBC’s streaming service.
in addition, According to The Athletica “streaming package” with Amazon or Apple may be part of the deal.
The long-term settlement, said to be worth more than $1 billion, “could be reached by the end of this week or pushed into next week,” according to the SBJ.
The Big Ten’s current media rights deal expires in 2023.
A lifeline for the Big 12 and/or Pac-12?
If ESPN pulls out of the Big Ten negotiations, a significant portion of the network’s stock will go by the wayside. To fill that gap, ESPN could turn to the Big 12 and Pac-12.
Both conferences lost key members with Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 for the SEC and USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. Without those marquee members, especially in the case of the Pac-12, media rights for those conferences aren’t as lucrative as they used to be.
Still, this should be seen as a positive development for the Pac-12, which began its media rights negotiation window early last month (the Big 12’s deal expires in 2025). ESPN wants to broadcast live sports, especially during nighttime windows. The Pac-12, if it stays together, can certainly deliver along with the rest of its members.
The Big Ten is shaping the market with this deal.
Thoughts on CFP, Notre Dame and more
A few other ideas:
ESPN owns the exclusive rights to the SEC, and losing out on the Big Ten could give Texas and Oklahoma more incentive to join the SEC before 2025. It also makes you wonder if ESPN will be willing to pull some strings to speed it up. A merger or partnership between the Pac-12 and the ACC.
Does ESPN want to strike deals with the Big 12 and Pac-12, or would some of the remaining Pac-12 teams — like Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — make more sense in an expanded Big 12? I’m not sure if this makes the deal more profitable, but just bidding for one conference is cheaper than two.
How does this affect television deals for college football games? If the CFP expands, could we move to a setup similar to the NFL playoffs with games played on multiple networks, with the national title game rotating between networks each year like the Super Bowl? The current CFP contract expires in 2026.
Will NBC’s involvement sway Notre Dame one way or the other? We all know the Big Ten wants to add Notre Dame, which has long maintained its independence. Does the fact that the Big Ten has now expanded to the West Coast make joining the conference more attractive to the Irish brass?