Big Ten lands new mega TV deal with Fox, NBC and CBS, but not ESPN

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The Big Ten Conference has finalized a monumental set of media rights deals, expected to be worth more than a billion dollars annually, with Fox, CBS and NBC, and notably without ESPN. The new Big Ten deals will make it the richest conference in college sports, just weeks after the conference announced it would add the University of Southern California and UCLA from the Pacific-12.

The new deals, which begin in 2023 and were announced Thursday morning, will give the conference an NFL-like schedule spread across three broadcast networks on college football Saturdays with set windows for each: noon on Fox; 3:30 p.m. on CBS; and prime time on NBC. It is the first time in four decades that the conference will not have a formal association with ESPN.

the additions of USC and UCLA to the big ten, which will give the conference a foothold in Los Angeles’ lucrative television market, boosted the value of deals as the multibillion-dollar college sports industry navigates a rapidly changing landscape. Beginning with the 2024 season, the Big Ten, once synonymous with the Midwest, will have 16 teams spread from New Jersey to California. It is a national conference in a sport once prized for its regional appeal.

“What the expansion did for us and for our fans, it really shrunk America, it shrunk our country,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in an interview, “to the extent that people recognize that they will be able to see our teams compete and their schools compete morning, noon and night and at unique times of the year, like Black Friday, and from coast to coast. That will be really exciting.”

Other Big Ten sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, will air across Fox (and FS1), CBS and NBC, along with the Big Ten Network, of which Fox owns 61 percent, and Peacock, the NBC streaming service. The deals run through the 2029-30 season.

Even in a more fragmented media environment, ESPN remains the country’s dominant sports network. His daily talk line fuels the sports talk of the day and retains the rights to the College Football Playoff. ESPN, for decades, was instrumental in putting the Big Ten on television across the country.

“We are a key component of college athletics, and especially college football,” Warren said. “I think everyone recognizes that it’s important that we all work together and we all have a collaborative voice. I am confident that where we rank in the Big Ten, we can have a voice in shaping the future of college athletics, both on and off the field of play.”

Fox and FS1 will continue to show a large portion of conference football games: 24 to 27 games in 2023, then 30 to 32 games in subsequent years.

In 2023, CBS will broadcast seven football games. The network is still tied to the SEC through a contract that requires CBS to exclusively broadcast the conference’s main game at 3:30 p.m. Starting in 2024, the Big Ten will occupy that afternoon window for the entire season, and CBS 15 games each year, including one on the Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving.

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NBC will broadcast 14 to 16 football games each season, featuring programming described as “Big Ten Saturday Night,” an effort to mirror the network’s success with “Sunday Night Football.”

Those three major networks will share the rights to broadcast the Big Ten football title game with Fox televising the game in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, and CBS (2024, 2028) and NBC (2026) broadcasting the main event in the United States. other years. .

Fox also has the rights to 45 men’s basketball games each season and can broadcast select women’s basketball games and Olympic sports competitions.

CBS will televise 9 to 11 men’s basketball games in 2023-24, then increase to 15 games, including 13 conference matchups, in the remaining years of the deal. The network will also broadcast the championship game of the men’s and women’s basketball conference tournaments, along with the men’s semifinals.

NBC’s Big Ten inventory only includes soccer, but Peacock, the network’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, will carry dozens of contests in other sports. The platform is scheduled to have eight football matches. Peacock will televise 32 men’s basketball games, including 20 conference games, in the 2023-24 season, then ramp up to 47 men’s basketball games (32 conference games) in subsequent years. Peacock will also broadcast the opening night pair of games in the men’s basketball conference tournament.

Peacock will host 30 women’s basketball games, including 20 conference games, and the opening night doubleheader of the women’s basketball conference tournament. The platform can also broadcast up to 40 live events per year for Olympic sports.

BTN will broadcast 38 to 41 soccer games in 2023, then up to 50 games from 2024 to 2029. The network will broadcast at least 126 men’s basketball games and at least 49 women’s basketball games. During the men’s basketball conference tournament, four games on Thursday and four quarterfinals will be broadcast on BTN. For the women’s tournament, BTN will have four games on Thursday, four quarterfinals and two semifinals. BTN will continue to be the conference’s primary home for Olympic sports programming.

Warren, the conference commissioner since 2020, said this summer that he has been thinking about expanding the Big Ten since he interviewed for the job. So when the conference welcomed UCLA and USC this summer, the shakeup in the college sports landscape didn’t alter the negotiations. He incorporated the idea of ​​the expansion, but not the specific schools, into the first term sheets discussed with the networks, he said.

“We are a historic conference,” Warren said. “I think people recognize that we try to make sure that we honor our tradition, but also be smart and cautious about forward-thinking, cutting-edge ideas.”

Rights fees illustrate the staggering amount of money that fills the coffers of college sports programs, an evolution that can be traced through the Big Ten and its television history. In 1996, the conference secured a 10-year, $100 million deal with ESPN that put nearly all of its conference games on the network and was the first of its kind. In 2007, the conference launched the Big Ten Network in partnership with Fox in a deal that netted the conference $2.8 billion over 20 years. The Pac-12, ACC and SEC have all followed the Big Ten and launched their own branded networks, with varying success.

The Big Ten and SEC remain far ahead of rival conferences in terms of revenue. The SEC signed an agreement with ESPN worth $3 billion over 10 years, according to Sports Business Journalfor its main Saturday game that begins in 2024. (Other parts of that deal bring the value of the SEC’s media rights to about $700 million each year.)

The Big Ten is just the latest sports property to turn a windfall in recent years, again proving the value of live sports to media companies, both traditional and new. The NFL signed a deal with the four broadcast networks and Amazon last year that will pay it about $100 billion over a decade. Major League Baseball’s new deal with Fox Sports is worth more than $5 billion a year. Last year, the English Premier League doubled the annual value of its American rights fee when it re-signed with NBC for $2.7 billion over six years. Live sports continue to be key to keeping cable customers, while streaming platforms hope to use it to recruit new subscribers. (The Big Ten also had talks with Amazon.)

In the evolving world of college athletes’ rights, Warren said, he’s open to having a conversation with players about potential revenue-sharing models of new deals. “I think all of these open issues should be put on the table for legitimate discussion,” he said.

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