Big Ten finalizes $1B a year media rights deal: Fox, CBS, NBC dramatically overpaying
ESPN got a damn good deal for the SEC, in retrospect. That’s the take from the news that the Big Ten has come to a seven-year media rights agreement with Fox, CBS and NBC that will pay the conference an average of $1 billion a year.
That’s a billion dollars a year for Big Ten football, which has produced two national champs this century, versus the $710 million a year that ESPN is paying for the SEC, which has won the last three national titles, four of the last five, five of the last seven, and has 12 total since 2001.
The Big Ten deal kicks in on July 1, 2024, and will bring you a plethora of games that will ultimately mean not all that much in the end, beginning at noon on Fox, with CBS getting the 3:30 p.m. ET window that it used to use for the SEC game of the week.
NBC gets the 8 p.m. slot, which will be branded “Big Ten Saturday Night.”
Fox gets dibs on the game of the week for its noon slot. CBS and NBC get second- and third-tier games for what are honestly much better timeslots.
ESPN dropped out of the bidding when the Big Ten demanded a seven-year, $380 million commitment for what would have been a smaller package of games than the network has aired in the past.
Instead, the Worldwide Leader will focus on the SEC, which agreed to a 10-year media rights deal that begins in 2024, and ACC, whose content it gets for $240 million a year in a deal that runs through 2036.
Kudos to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren for getting Fox, CBS and NBC to dramatically overpay for B1G football and men’s basketball, which hasn’t produced a national champ since Michigan State in 2000.
The windfall will allow the conference to distribute up to $100 million per year to its members by 2026.
The SEC, even with the smaller contract, is projected to be able to distribute slightly more to its members, in the range of $105 million per year, due in large part to the conference’s success in landing teams in the College Football Playoff, and the anticipation that the playoff field will be expanded from its current four to eight or even 12 when the CFP contract expires in 2025.
The ACC currently pays its members $38 million per year. That figure is projected to grow into the $55 million per year range in 2029.
The money gap being what it is, the move by the Big Ten to end its relationship with ESPN is a big gamble. Fox, CBS and NBC are broadcast networks, but none have the sports-specific niche that ESPN can bring to a conference broadcast partner, and you can expect that ESPN will focus its coverage of college football and college basketball on its broadcast partners.
If that ends up being the case, and it almost certainly will, Big Ten fans will know where to look for the games they want to see, but the reach to more casual fans will have to root around a little more.
Basically, if ESPN sets up for “GameDay” at Ohio State-Michigan, the people running things there aren’t as smart as I think they are.
But hey, it’s money in the bank for the Big Ten.
Fox, CBS and NBC are the ones on the hook here, not the B1G.
Warren and the presidents can just take the money and run, and good on them for that.