The Big Ten is in the process of finalizing its media rights deals, sources said The Athletics the league hopes to make an official announcement early next week. In a stunning development, ESPN has pulled out of negotiations, sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Athletics.
Except for Fox, who was locked up Big Ten rights months ago, the conference will likely partner with both CBS and NBC. Such deals, if finalized, could result in the following Saturday slate: a noon ET game on Fox, a 3:30 pm ET game on CBS and prime time on NBC. Multiple sources involved in the negotiations reiterated over the past month that the Big Ten prioritized those windows during the process.
ESPN has officially pulled out of Big Ten negotiations after saying no to the conference’s final offer of a seven-year deal worth $380 million a year, a source said. The Athletics on tuesday Sports Business Journal first reported the developments.
The rejection of ESPN of the offer of the Big Ten was for only 13 of the “B”/”C” package of the Big Ten of games; ESPN also looked at a prime-time package. Fox has already acquired the league’s “A” game package, which it will carry in the midday window.
ESPN’s exclusive 10-year deal with the SEC, starting in 2024-25, is believed to be in the $300 million range. That deal includes both 3:30 pm ET and prime-time windows for the conference’s top games, which is different from what the network was playing for with the Big Ten. Clearly, the global leader didn’t value the Big Ten’s secondary package at a higher price for fewer years than its SEC deal, especially with the network already obligated to the ACC as well.
The news is undoubtedly historic. ESPN has carried Big Ten football and basketball games for the past 40 years.
ESPN has mid-afternoon and prime-time windows for its next SEC deal, in addition to deals with the ACC and, potentially, future deals with the Pac-12 (post-2024) and Big 12 (post-25).
However, this fall will mark ESPN’s 40th and final year of broadcasting Big Ten football.
— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) 9 August 2022
The Big Ten is also likely to add some type of streaming option, a source said The Athletics, although it is not yet clear how it will be structured and whether Amazon or Apple will be involved or not. Both companies have significantly increased their investment in live sports programming in the past year. Another streaming candidate under consideration is Peacock, which is already part of NBC’s bids, a different source said. That would make sense if NBC acquires a Big Ten package as it is now expected to do so.
CBS is expected to pay the Big Ten $350 million a year in its new deal, a source confirmed to The Athletics. NBC is also expected to pay around $350 million a year, according to multiple reports. Multiple outlets have reported that the Big Ten is looking to eclipse $1 billion in rights fees per year in its new deal.
The Big Ten said in a statement Tuesday that “general construction of the new rights agreements have not been finalized.”
What we know about Big Ten rights negotiations
“The conference continues to have productive meetings with both linear and direct-to-consumer media partners,” the Big Ten said. “We are committed to providing unparalleled resources and exposure opportunities for Big Ten Conference member institutions, athletic programs, student-athletes, coaches and fans. We are very grateful to the media companies that recognize the value of Big Ten programming and want to deliver it to our fans around the world in a progressive way.”
With ESPN no longer in the mix to broadcast Big Ten football, expect the network to participate in one or both of the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences, whose rights will come later. The Pac-12 has already opened its exclusive negotiating window with ESPN early in the aftermath of USC and UCLA‘s move to the Big Ten.
— Richard Deitsch and Matt Fortuna contributed reporting.
(Photo: Matthew O’Haren / USA Today)