It looks like the Big Ten is on the verge of finalizing its new media rights deal. And according to Sports Business Journal, ESPN likely won’t be a part of it.
SBJ reported Monday night that, “barring a last-minute change of direction” in negotiations with ESPN, the Big Ten’s deal is expected to include three entities: Fox, CBS and NBC.
Fox, which has a 60% stake in the Big Ten Network, would be the conference’s primary rights holder with CBS and NBC also part of the agreement.
It would mark a major shift in the media landscape as ESPN’s first deal with the Big Ten dates back to 1982. Additionally, ABC first carried Big Ten games in 1966.
With ESPN out of the equation, a Big Ten Saturday could look like this: a noon game on Fox, a 3:30 pm game on CBS and a prime-time game on NBC. According to SBJ, Big Ten games would also air on FS1 and Big Ten Network with Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, also in the mix.
Additionally, according to The Athletic, a “streaming package” with Amazon or Apple could also be part of the deal.
The long-negotiated deal, which has been rumored to be worth in excess of $1 billion, “could be reached by the end of this week or push into next week,” per SBJ.
The Big Ten’s current media rights deal expires in 2023.
A lifeline for the Big 12 and/or Pac-12?
If ESPN is indeed out on the Big Ten negotiations, a significant portion of the network’s inventory goes by the wayside. To fill that void, ESPN could turn to the Big 12 and Pac-12.
Both conferences lost major members in realignment with Texas and Oklahoma departing the Big 12 for the SEC, and USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. Without those marquee members, particularly in the Pac-12’s case, the media rights of those conferences are nowhere near as lucrative as they once were.
Still, this has to be viewed as a positive development for the Pac-12, which began its media rights negotiating window early last month (the Big 12’s deal expires in 2025). ESPN wants live sports to broadcast, particularly in late-night windows. The Pac-12, should it remain together, could certainly provide that with its remaining members.
The Big Ten is setting the market with this deal.
Thoughts on the CFP, Notre Dame and more
A few other thoughts:
ESPN is the exclusive rights holder of the SEC, and losing out on the Big Ten could provide further incentive to get Texas and Oklahoma into the SEC before 2025. It also makes you wonder if ESPN would have interest in pulling some strings to accelerate some sort of merger or partnership between the Pac-12 and ACC.
Would 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 entirely sure that would make the deal more valuable.
How does this impact the TV deal for the College Football Playoff? If the CFP expands, could we be heading towards a setup that resembles the NFL playoffs with games played across multiple networks with the national title game rotating between networks on an annual basis like the Super Bowl? The current CFP contract expires in 2026.
Does NBC’s involvement sway Notre Dame one way or the other? We all know the Big Ten would love to add Notre Dame, which has long retained its independence. Will the fact that the Big Ten now extends to the West Coast make joining the conference more appealing to the Irish brass?