Big Ten Inks NFL-Style, $7B Media Rights Agreement

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The Big Ten Conference has officially signed a media rights deal involving Fox, CBS and NBC — all traditional NFL TV partners — worth $7 billion over seven years beginning in 2023, sources told Sports Illustrated

As reported by Pat Forde of SI, the agreement comes with this caveat from a Big Ten source: “We are not done expanding.”

That could be an indication, as Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in July, that further national realignment could come within the next few years, well before this new deal ends with the 2029–30 athletic calendar.

In terms of the current deal, it resets the bar for what universities can make on their media rights. When USC and UCLA are added to the conference in 2024, the annual payout over the lifetime of the agreement could average in excess of $70 million per member in the 16-team conference, according to Forde, who adds the windfall would not include additional conference disbursements, such as pooled bowl and NCAA basketball tournament revenue.

“I think we were able to create a win-win-win opportunity,” Warren says. “I’m confident this will be very positive for all parties involved. It emphasizes the point that live sports are still in demand [as a broadcast commodity]. It was a unique and different experience, but I think people will look back and say it all worked out.”

On the losing end of this stick appears to be the soon-to-be depleted Pac-12 Conference, which could lose an estimated $13 million per year in media rights for each of the schools left behind by USC and UCLA, according to an interim report issued by University of California Office of the President and cited by The Associated Press.

The report says USC’s exit from the Pac-12 would mean an estimated loss of $9.8 million, or nearly 30 percent of the conference’s media rights, for each of the remaining schools. UCLA’s departure would not be quite as drastic, with estimates of 10 percent or $3.25 million. It did not factor in losses in ticket sales, according to the AP.

Starting with the 2023–24 athletic season, Big Ten sports will be available across six different platforms: Fox and its affiliates, FS1 and the Big Ten Network; CBS, which is winding down its long-standing partnership with the SEC; and NBC and its direct-to-consumer streaming arm, Peacock.

“We just couldn’t be prouder and more excited to partner with these media brands,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman says. “The platform, the visibility, the partnerships … puts on really stable footing as we continue to move our way through a pretty unique moment in the history of college athletics.”

The notable omission is ESPN, which has aired Big Ten athletics for four decades; however, multiple sources said ESPN could still land an agreement to carry Big Ten content as a sublicensee, particularly in the basketball space, according to Forde, adding that in an unstable landscape, there is always the possibility of realignment sending everyone back to market to restructure contracts that add (or reinstate) broadcast partners.

The addition of traditional broadcast titans CBS and NBC allows the league to expand its Saturday football game menu from noon until nearly midnight ET. The Big Ten lineup will be: Fox televising the league’s “A” game at noon; CBS keeping the 3:30 p.m. window it has employed with the SEC; and NBC broadcasting a prime-time game that comes on the heels of Notre Dame home contests. Fox will coordinate a game draft with the Big Ten office each year.

The inventory breakdown by platform will be as follows, as reported by Forde:

  • Fox/FS1 will have 24–27 football games in 2023–24, then 30–32 games each of the next six years. It also will air four of the seven Big Ten championship games during the contract. Fox/FS1 will broadcast 45 men’s basketball games in ’23–24 and at least that many in the years thereafter, but none of the men’s conference tournament. They will have the option to broadcast “select” women’s basketball games and distribute “select” Olympic sports events.
  • Big Ten Network will have 38–41 football games in 2023–24 before increasing to a max of 50 games for the rest of the deal. It will have a minimum of 126 men’s basketball games annually, including eight from the men’s basketball tournament prior to the semifinals and championship. BTN also will show a minimum of 49 women’s basketball games per season, including conference tournament games prior to the championship. BTN will continue to be the “primary home” of the league’s Olympic sports.
  • NBC will have 16 football games in 2023 and 14–15 thereafter. That will include one championship game. The network that made its Sunday night NFL broadcasts a staple of American football viewing and carved out a college niche with Notre Dame will apply its same production value to the Big Ten prime-time window. Expect extensive cross-promotion between the NFL and Big Ten productions.
  • Peacock, which won the direct-to-consumer part of the deal, will have eight football games per season for the length of the contract. It also will show 32 men’s basketball games in 2023–24 (20 of them conference matchups) and 47 thereafter (32 league contests). That will include an opening-night doubleheader from the men’s tournament. On the women’s side, Peacock will stream 30 games a season, 20 of which are conference play. Peacock also is a likely destination for a significant amount of Olympic sports coverage as part of a tie-in with NBC’s status as the American rights-holder for the Summer and Winter Olympics.
  • CBS will air seven football games during the 2023–24 season, as it shares broadcast time with its SEC commitment. That will increase to 14 or 15 games per season thereafter and include two Big Ten title games. In men’s basketball, which CBS already has carried for years, the inventory will start with 9–11 games in ’23–24 and increase to 15 thereafter. Thirteen of those will be conference games from ’24 to 30. CBS will also get the semifinals and championship game of the league tournament, and the women’s tourney title game.
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