Why ESPN reportedly won’t air Big Ten football or basketball games after latest media rights negotiations


After 40 years, it looks like ESPN is going to lose Big Ten broadcasting rights.

Big Ten basketball and football are in the final stages of negotiations for its media rights, and ESPN is reportedly not in the conversation. Instead NBC and CBS — synonymous with Notre Dame and the SEC, respectively — have emerged as the frontrunners along with Fox Sports to carry the newly minted super-conference in 2023.

The report, which comes via the Sports Business Journal, states the deal should eclipse $1 billion per year, making the Big Ten the first conference to hit that milestone.

The Big Ten, of course, recently added West Coast stalwarts USC and UCLA to the fold in principle, ostensibly its answer to Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC. Fox’s deal should include the renewal of its Big Noon Saturday games.

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Why is ESPN losing broadcast rights to the Big Ten?

With the Big Ten’s media deal expiring, the conference had to renegotiate its broadcasting rights.

In doing so, it appears ESPN will lose the rights to either NBC or CBS, which generally carry Notre Dame football and the SEC.

The trickle effect is interesting. While ESPN is no stranger to Big Ten games, it also means the conference will no longer air on ABC. Marquee Big Ten matchups were nearly synonymous with ABC for years, so it will take some getting used to.

Fox, meanwhile, will continue to carry Big Ten sports.

ESPN’s focus will turn towards broadcasting SEC games in spots once occupied by other conferences.

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How will CBS and NBC split games?

Per the Sports Business Journal, Fox will continue to carry Big Noon Saturday games and show games on the Big Ten Network, but the big difference will be the afternoon slate.

CBS and NBC will reportedly split the second block of games.

CBS will get the 3:30 pm ET block of games, whereas NBC will get primetime slots.

The ripple effect of this is actually fairly immense, as it means CBS will no longer broadcast the SEC in its afternoon game.

ESPN, of course, has been moving towards SEC football for a long time, locking itself into a 10-year media deal with the SEC in 2020 that also had a basketball focus. Expect even more focus on the SEC on ESPN moving forward.

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Where does ESPN go from here?

SBJ says ESPN will likely be aggressive in pursuing Big 12 and Pac-12 rights moving forward, but it will continue to broadcast the College Football Playoffs and NCAA Championships.

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