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Big Ten Reportedly Finalizing Media Rights Contract with Fox Sports, CBS, NBC

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 9, 2022

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Big Ten is working toward an agreement on a media rights deal with Fox Sports, CBS and NBC, according to Sports Business Journal's John Ourand and Action Network's Brett McMurphy.

The reports noted this would end a 40-year partnership between the Big Ten and ESPN.

"If ESPN moves on from the Big Ten, look for the company to be especially aggressive in trying to secure Big 12 and Pac-12 rights, as well as renewing its deals with the NCAA Championships and College Football Playoffs," per Ourand.

Although the full terms of the deals aren't finalized, Ourand added the Big Ten is poised to earn more than $1 billion annually. Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported CBS on its own is expected to shell out $350 million each year.

Front Office Sports' Michael McCarthy and Amanda Christovich reported in July the conference might be able to command $1.1 billion to $1.25 billion after bringing in USC and UCLA.

Fox already had an ownership stake in Big Ten Network, and the company typically showcases the conference in its "Big Noon Saturday" slot. It's no surprise that partnership will continue.

The bigger question was whether the Big Ten would branch out and pursue new opportunities away from ESPN.

McCarthy and Christovich reported Aug. 3 that NBC was pitching how it could make the Big Ten "the NFL of college football conferences."

"As negotiations near the finish line, NBC is proposing a strategy that calls for back-to-back Big Ten and NFL games in prime time TV on Saturday and Sunday nights, said sources," per the report.

Aligning with CBS, which is losing its coverage of SEC games, effectively fills the void created by leaving ESPN/ABC. According to The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach, the conference wanted to have a consistent slate of national broadcasts every week.

Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach

Everyone I've talked to in and around the Big Ten throughout the last few months has stressed the league's desire for exclusive windows. I asked if there could be too many partners for a league to have & was told nope.

Not only is the super-conference era here, but it looks increasingly likely the best programs across college football will be split between the Big Ten and SEC. The Big Ten's media deals certainly sets the stage for a head-to-head battle against the SEC each and every game day.

Stewart Mandel @slmandel

You can see it now starting in 2023:<br><br>Noon: Big Ten on Fox<br>3:30: Big Ten on CBS<br>7:30: Big Ten on NBC<br><br>And starting a year later, ESPN will be able to counter-program with:<br><br>Noon: SEC on ABC/ESPN<br>3:30: SEC on ABC/ESPN<br>7:30: SEC or ACC on ABC/ESPN

There's clearly some risk in breaking away altogether from ESPN and the family of networks fans most associate with sports. The impact of the Big Ten's absence on ESPN is likely to be felt much more during college basketball season.

Collecting 10 figures annually from Fox, NBC and CBS should help to soften the blow.

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