Big Ten Media Rights: What We Know as Negotiations Enter Homestretch

The Big Ten are set to deliver a stunner when they finalize their media rights negotiations sometime in the coming days. Barring any last-minute surprises, ESPN aren’t expected to land any of the Big Ten packages, a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations has confirmed. Athleticism.

In addition to Fox, which locked Big Ten rights months ago, the conference is expected to partner with both CBS and NBC. Such deals, if finalized, could result in the following Saturday slate: a game at noon ET on Fox, a game at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS and prime time on NBC. Multiple sources involved in the negotiations have reiterated over the past month that the Big Ten prioritized exclusive windows throughout the process.

Sports Business Journal first reported on the developments and noted that ESPN was still negotiating with the Big Ten, so there’s still a chance the network could end up with a package. If ESPN doesn’t end up with Big Ten football and basketball games in this round of negotiations, it will be historic. ESPN has aired Big Ten games for the past 40 years; it shares rights with Fox under the current deal, which is due to expire in 2023.

The Big Ten is also expected to add a streaming package, although it’s not yet clear whether that will go to Amazon or Apple, a source said. Athleticism. Both companies have significantly increased their investments in live sports programming over the past year.

Here’s what we know about potential options:

How ESPN losing the Big Ten impacts its battle with Fox

If the Big Ten were to leave ESPN, it would add some fuel to the fire brewing between ESPN and Fox. ESPN has exclusive rights to the SEC, and Fox would have primary rights to the Big Ten — so the rivals would each back a different horse as the two 16-team conferences are expected to pull away from their peers by the end of the decade. What could this mean for programming decisions? Framing? Future media rights linked to an extension of the college football playoffs?

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren opposed early efforts to expand the CFP last winter, in part because expanding the CFP before the end of the current contract (which expires in 2026) meant that ESPN would have an exclusive trading window. Warren has long advocated for CFP to have multiple media partners, which many in the industry have taken to mean Fox getting involved.

What Warren envisioned for college football’s first postseason event is akin to the NFL playoffs: multiple media partners airing different rounds and investing more in their coverage of the sport throughout the year to support this.

What this means for the Pac-12, the Big 12 and Our Lady

If ESPN doesn’t get a Big Ten package, you have to think that bodes well for the Pac-12 and Big 12, whose rights come next. The Pac-12 opened its exclusive trading window with ESPN at the start of the USC and UCLAmoved on to the Big Ten.

What is perhaps equally – if not more – interesting is how Notre Dame fits into these developments. Could NBC’s relationship with the Big Ten help Irish people join the conference? With longtime rival USC and a footprint that now stretches from Los Angeles to New York, the Big Ten believe it has never been more attractive to independent Irish people. The checks that the conference is about to hand out to its members thanks to this new media deal won’t hurt either. Multiple outlets reported that the Big Ten were looking to eclipse $1 billion in rights fees a year in their new deal.

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