The new deals, which begin in 2023 and were announced Thursday morning, will give the conference an NFL-like schedule spread across three broadcast networks on college football Saturdays with fixed windows for each — noon on Fox; 3:30 p.m. on CBS; and in prime time on NBC. This is the first time in four decades that the conference will not have a formal partnership with ESPN.
The additions of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, which will give the conference a footprint in the lucrative Los Angeles television market, have boosted the value of deals as the multi-billion dollar college sports industry navigates a rapidly changing landscape. Beginning with the 2024 season, the Big Ten, once synonymous with the Midwest, will have 16 teams spanning from New Jersey to California. This is a national conference in a sport once prized for its regional appeal.
“What the expansion did for us and for our fans, it really shrunk the United States, shrunk our country,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in an interview, “until that people recognize that they will be able to watch our teams compete and their schools compete morning, noon and night and at unique times of the year, such as Black Friday, and from coast to coast. really exciting.
Other Big Ten sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, will air on Fox (and FS1), CBS and NBC, as well as the Big Ten network, in which Fox owns a 61% stake, and Peacock, the NBC’s streaming service. The deals run throughout the 2029-30 season.
Even in a more fragmented media environment, ESPN remains the nation’s dominant sports network. His lineup of daily talk drives the sports conversation of the day, and he retains the rights to the college football playoffs. ESPN, for decades, has played a key role in bringing the Big Ten to television across the country.
“We’re a key part of college athletics, and especially college football,” Warren said. “I think everyone recognizes that it’s important that we all work together and that we all have a collaborative voice. I am confident that where we stand in the Big Ten, we can have a voice in shaping the future of college athletics both on and off the playing field.”
Fox and FS1 will continue to broadcast a large portion of conference football games: 24 to 27 games in 2023, then 30 to 32 games in subsequent years.
In 2023, CBS will broadcast seven football games. The network is still tied to the SEC through a contract that requires the best game in the conference to air exclusively on CBS at 3:30 p.m. Starting in 2024, the Big Ten will occupy that afternoon window all season, and CBS will air 14 or 15 games each year, including one on the Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving.
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NBC will air 14 to 16 football games each season, introducing programming described as “Big Ten Saturday Night”, an effort to mirror the success the network has had with “Sunday Night Football”.
These three major networks will share broadcast rights to the Big Ten football title game with Fox televising the game in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, and CBS (2024, 2028) and NBC (2026) airing the showpiece event the other years. .
Fox also has the rights to 45 men’s basketball games each season and can broadcast select women’s basketball games and Olympic sports competitions.
CBS will televise 9 to 11 men’s basketball games in 2023-24, then expand to 15 games, including 13 conference games, in the remaining years of the deal. The network will also air the men’s and women’s basketball conference tournament championship game, as well as the men’s semifinals.
NBC’s Big Ten inventory only includes football, but Peacock, the network’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, will host dozens of contests in other sports. The platform is expected to have eight football matches. Peacock will broadcast 32 men’s basketball games, including 20 conference games, in the 2023-24 season, then expand to 47 men’s basketball games (32 conference games) in subsequent years. Peacock will also air the pair of opening night games from the Men’s Basketball Conference Tournament.
Peacock will host 30 women’s basketball games, including 20 conference games, and the opening night doubleheader of the Women’s Basketball Conference Tournament. The platform can also broadcast up to 40 live events per year for Olympic sports.
BTN will broadcast 38 to 41 football games in 2023 and then up to 50 games from 2024 to 2029. The network will broadcast at least 126 men’s basketball games and at least 49 women’s basketball games. In the men’s basketball conference tournament, four Thursday games and four quarterfinals will air on BTN. For the women’s tournament, BTN will have four games on Thursday, four quarter-finals and two semi-finals. BTN will continue to be the conference’s primary headquarters for Olympic sports programming.
Warren, the conference commissioner since 2020, said this summer he has been considering Big Ten expansion since interviewing for the job. So when the conference hosted UCLA and USC this summer, the jolt in the college sports landscape did not shake negotiations. He incorporated the idea of expansion, but not specific schools, into early term sheets discussed with the networks, he said.
“We are a historic conference,” Warren said. “I think people recognize that we’re trying to make sure we stick to our tradition, but also to be smart and careful about cutting-edge cutting-edge ideas.”
The rights fee illustrates the staggering amount of money filling the coffers of college sports programs, a development that can be traced through the Big Ten and its television history. In 1996, the conference landed a 10-year, $100 million deal with ESPN which put almost all of its conference games on the network and was the first of its kind. In 2007, the conference launched the Big Ten Network in partnership with Fox in a deal that earned the conference $2.8 billion over 20 years. The Pac-12, ACC, and SEC all followed the Big Ten and launched their own brand networks, with varying success.
The Big Ten and the SEC remain far ahead in terms of revenue from rival conferences. The SEC signed a deal with ESPN worth $3 billion over 10 years, according to Sports Business Journal, for its best Saturday game that begins in 2024. (Other parts of this deal carry the value of the rights SEC media outlets about $700 million each year.)
The Big Ten is just the latest sports property to reap a windfall in recent years, proving once again the value of live sports to media companies, both traditional and new. The NFL signed a deal last year with the four broadcast networks and Amazon that will pay it about $100 billion over a decade. Major League Baseball’s new contract with Fox Sports is worth more than $5 billion a year. Last year, the English Premier League doubled the annual value of its US rights fee when it re-signed with NBC for $2.7 billion over six years. Live sports remain key to retaining cable customers, while streaming platforms hope to use them to recruit new subscribers. (The Big Ten has also had conversations with Amazon.)
In the evolving world of college athlete rights, Warren said, he’s open to a conversation with players about potential revenue-sharing models from new deals. “I think all of these open questions need to be put on the table to be legitimately discussed,” he said.