ESPN out of Big Ten negotiations as Fox, CBS and NBC close to deals: Sources

The Big Ten is finalizing its media rights deals, with sources saying Athleticism the league hopes to make an official announcement early next week. In a stunning development, ESPN pulled out of the negotiations, sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to Athleticism.

In addition to Fox, who had locked up Big Ten Rights a few months ago, the conference is likely 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 these windows throughout the process.

ESPN has officially pulled out of Big Ten negotiations after saying no to the conference’s final offer of a seven-year deal worth $380 million a year, a source says Athleticism tuesday. Sports Business Journal first reported the developments.

ESPN’s rejection of the Big Ten’s offer only involved 13 of the Big Ten’s “B”/”C” games; ESPN had also considered a prime-time package. Fox has already landed the league’s ‘A’ game package, which it will offer in the noon window.

ESPN’s exclusive 10-year deal with the SEC, starting in 2024-25, is reportedly in the range of $300 million. This deal includes both 3:30 p.m. ET and prime-time windows for major conference games, which differs from what the network was in play for with the Big Ten. Clearly, the world leader hasn’t priced the Big Ten secondary package higher for fewer years than its deal with the SEC, especially with the network already obligated to the ACC as well.

The news is unquestionably historic. ESPN has hosted Big Ten football and basketball games for the past 40 years.

The Big Ten is also likely to add some sort of streaming option, a source says. Athleticism, although it’s not yet clear how it will be structured and whether or not Amazon or Apple will be involved. Both companies have significantly increased their investments in live sports programming over the past year. Another streaming contender under consideration is Peacock, which is already among NBC’s bids, another source said. It would make sense if NBC lands a Big Ten package, as it is now expected to do.

CBS is expected to pay the Big Ten $350 million a year under its new deal, a source confirmed to Athleticism. NBC is also expected to pay around $350 million a year, according to multiple reports. Multiple outlets reported that the Big Ten were looking to eclipse $1 billion in rights fees per year in their new deal.

The Big Ten said in a statement on Tuesday that “the general constructions of the new rights agreements have not been finalized.”

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What we know about the Big Ten rights negotiations

“The conference continues to have productive meetings with linear and direct-to-consumer media partners,” the Big Ten said. “We are committed to providing unparalleled resources and exposure opportunities to Big Ten Conference member institutions, athletic programs, student-athletes, coaches and fans. We are so grateful to media companies that recognize the value of Big Ten programming and want to bring it to our fans around the world in a forward-thinking way.

With ESPN no longer in the mix to broadcast Big Ten football, expect the network to get involved in either or both Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences, whose rights come next. . The Pac-12 already opened its exclusive trading window with ESPN at the start of the USC and UCLAmoved on to the Big Ten.

— Richard Deitsch and Matt Fortuna contributed reporting.

(Photo: Matthew O’Haren/USA Today)

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