March 1, 2024

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With ESPN out, here’s how college football routine will change with the Big Ten’s brewing media deal

With ESPN out, here's how college football routine will change with the Big Ten's brewing media deal

It looks like the Big Ten is about to finalize a new media rights deal. According to Sports Business JournalESPN will not be a part of it.

SBJ reported Tuesday morning that ESPN has pulled out of the negotiations. Without ESPN’s participation, the Big Ten deal is expected to include three entities: Fox, CBS, and NBC.

Fox, which owns 60% of Big Ten Network, will be the primary rights holder for the conference with CBS and NBC also as part of the agreement.

It would be a major shift in the media landscape as ESPN’s first deal with the Big Ten dates back to 1982. In addition, ABC held the Big Ten games for the first time in 1966.

With ESPN out of the equation, Big Ten Saturday could look like this: an afternoon match on Fox, a 3:30 p.m. match on CBS and a primetime game on NBC. According to SBJ, Big Ten games will also be broadcast on FS1 and the Big Ten Network with Peacock, the broadcast service on NBC, also in the mix.

in addition to, According to The Athletic,A “streaming package” with Amazon or Apple can also be part of the deal.

The long-negotiated deal, rumored to be worth more than $1 billion, “can be reached by the end of this week or pushed into next week,” according to SBJ.

The Big Ten’s current media rights deal expires in 2023.

The Big Ten is close to finalizing a new media rights deal, according to multiple reports. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

The lifeblood of the Big 12 and/or Pac-12?

If ESPN is indeed out of the Big Ten negotiations, a significant portion of the network’s stock is passing away. To fill that void, ESPN could turn to Big 12 and Pac-12.

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Both conferences lost key member states in a realignment with Texas and Oklahoma after the Big 12 left the SEC, and the USC and UCLA left the Pac-12 to the Big Ten. Without these notable members, particularly in the case of the Pac-12, the media rights to these conferences are nowhere near as profitable as they once were.

However, this should be seen as a positive development for Pac-12, which kicked off the media rights negotiating window early last month (the Big 12 deal expires in 2025). ESPN wants to stream live sports, especially in late-night windows. Pac-12, if you stay together, can provide that with its remaining members.

The Big Ten is putting the market in this deal.

Thoughts on CFP, Notre Dame and more

Some other ideas:

  • ESPN is the SEC’s exclusive rights holder, and losing the Big Ten could provide additional incentive to get Texas and Oklahoma into the SEC before 2025. It also makes you wonder if ESPN would be interested in pulling some leads to speed up some sort of merger or partnership between Pac -12 and ACC.

  • Would ESPN want to cut 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 sure that would make the deal significantly more lucrative, but just having to bid for one conference is cheaper than two.

  • How will this affect the TV deal for the college football game? If CFP expands, could we head toward an NFL playoff-like setup with games played across multiple networks with the national title game alternating between networks on a yearly basis like the Super Bowl? The current CFP contract expires in 2026.

  • Does NBC’s involvement affect Notre Dame one way or the other? We all know the Big Ten would love the addition of Notre Dame, which has long held its independence. Will the fact that the Big Ten are now stretching to the West Coast make joining the convention more attractive to Irish brass?

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