The Big Ten has cemented itself as the first $1 billion conference.
Conference games, including conference championship games, will be split across FOX, CBS and NBC starting next season, the conference and networks confirmed on Thursday. Collectively, the Big Ten sold those rights for at least $1 billion annually — over $7 billion in total.
The deal will go into effect July 1, 2023, and run through the end of the 2029-30 athletic year.
Multiple media reports suggest annual distributed revenue to each Big Ten member school would be between $80 million and $100 million in the third year of the deal — after SEC broadcasts leave CBS and USC and UCLA join the conference. For comparison, the most recent full fiscal year not impacted by the pandemic saw $54.3 million paid to each conference member.
ESPN, a broadcast partner of the Big Ten for the last 40 years, officially pulled out of negations last week following the conference’s final offer of a seven-year deal worth $380 million per year, according to a report from the Sports Business Journal. ESPN has shared rights with FOX under its current deal, which expires next year.
“We are proud to expand upon our long-standing partnership with the Big Ten Conference and further bolster our position as the premier rights holder for the conference,” FOX Sports Chief Executive Office and Executive Producer Eric Shanks said in a statement on Thursday. “(Big Ten) Commissioner (Kevin) Warren’s leadership and vision have resulted in the growth and recent market expansion of the Big Ten Conference. In an ever-evolving landscape, the Big Ten remains the most storied collegiate athletic conference in the country.”
Warren said the deal ensures football, men’s and women’s basketball, as well as Olympic sports coverage, will be delivered across the litany of platforms — FOX, FS1 and BTN.
It’s also worth noting that these announced deals maintain flexibility in the event the Big Ten expands beyond the additions of UCLA and USC.
Logistically, this involves juggling. FOX, the conference’s primary broadcast partner, will broadcast the Big Ten Championship Game in 2022, 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029. CBS will air the game in 2024 and 2028. NBC will broadcast the conference title game in 2026.
FOX secured rights to air Big Ten games as part of its “Big Noon Saturday” broadcast window months ago. That means premier Big Ten games will air at 11 a.m. CT. CBS will begin airing mid-afternoon Big Ten games once its current deal with the SEC runs out in 2024. NBC will air prime time Big Ten games on a block it will call “Big Ten Saturday Night.” Big Ten games will also air four conference games per year on Peacock, NBC’s streaming platform, in addition to four non-conference games involving Big Ten teams. No streaming deal was announced outside of Peacock, but it’s likely the conference will add a streaming package — potentially with a partner like Amazon or Apple, which have both increased their live sports investments.
Specifics sighted in each release show FOX/FS1 will air up to 27 regular-season football games next year and up to 32 games per year from 2024 until the deal’s expiration. BTN will broadcast up to 41 games next year and a maximum of 50 per year after that season. NBC will broadcast 16 regular-season conference games next year and then 15 games per year beyond that — with the addition of a primetime game on Black Friday. Then, starting in 2024, CBS will broadcast up to 15 Big Ten football games per season — including a Black Friday afternoon kickoff.
“The Big Ten has been a valued partner for more than three decades and we are thrilled to expand that relationship by adding Big Ten football to our portfolio of marquee properties,” Sean McManus, CBS Sports Chairman, said in a release.
Games broadcasted on NBC will simultaneously stream on Peacock and every CBS game will also stream on Paramount+.
“With Big Ten Saturday Night and Sunday Night Football headlining each fall weekend in primetime on NBC and Peacock, along with our historic Notre Dame football partnership, NBC Sports will be the home of premier games in college football and the NFL,” NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in a statement.
But how will this look?
Excellent question. While the situation is still fluid, as with most college sports partnerships today, there’s some picture starting to form.
For example, let’s look at October 22 this year. If you’re a Husker fan and don’t know someone who’s getting married on that particular bye week, this leaves you an entire day to channel surf the Big Ten.
That day could start with the Ohio State playing Iowa on FOX’s Big Noon Saturday. (Although the title can be misleading, the game doesn’t have to start at noon — take your complaint to FOX.) Then, CBS would air the “B” block game, most likely Penn State versus Minnesota. That takes you into the evening, where NBC gets a prime time game — in this hypothetical, probably Purdue against Wisconsin.
Keep in mind these deals are backloaded. The Big Ten’s current ESPN deal doesn’t run out until 2023 and CBS won’t carry as many games until its SEC deal expires and the Los Angeles duo schools join the Big Ten.