The new deals, which begin in 2023 and were announced Thursday morning, will give the conference an NFL-esque schedule, spanning three broadcast networks on college football Saturdays with fixed windows for each — noon on Fox; 3:30 p.m. on CBS; and prime time on NBC. It marks the first time in four decades that the conference has not had 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 TV market, have increased the value of the agreements as the multi-billion dollar college sports industry moves through a rapidly changing landscape. As of the 2024 season, the Big Ten, once synonymous with the Midwest, will have 16 teams spread from New Jersey to California. It is a national conference in a sport once prized for its regional appeal.
“What the expansion did for us, and for our fans, it has shrinked the United States and our country,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in an interview, “where people recognize that they can see our teams compete and their schools compete in the morning, afternoon and evening and at unique times throughout the year, such as on Black Friday, and coast to coast. That’s going to be very exciting.”
Other Big Ten sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, will be broadcast on Fox (and FS1), CBS and NBC, along with the Big Ten Network, of which Fox owns 61 percent, and Peacock, NBC’s streaming service. The deals run through the 2029-30 season.
Even in a more fragmented media environment, ESPN remains the country’s dominant sports network. The daily talk lineup ensures sports conversations of the day and retains the rights to the College Football Playoff. ESPN has been key to getting the Big Ten on TV across the country for decades.
“We’re an important part of college athletics, and especially college football,” Warren said. “I think everyone recognizes that it’s important that we all work together and have a common voice. I am confident that where we are in the Big Ten we can have a voice in shaping the future of athletics, both on and off the playing field.”
Fox and FS1 will continue to show much of the conference’s football games: 24 to 27 games in 2023, then 30 to 32 games in subsequent years.
CBS will broadcast seven football matches in 2023. The network is still affiliated with the SEC through a contract that requires the conference’s top game to be broadcast exclusively by CBS at 3:30 p.m. Beginning in 2024, the Big Ten will occupy that afternoon window for the entire season and CBS will host 14 or 15 games per year, including one at noon on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
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NBC will broadcast 14 to 16 football games each season, with programs described as “Big Ten Saturday Night,” an attempt to mirror the network’s success with “Sunday Night Football.”
Those three major networks will share the rights to broadcast the Big Ten football title game, with Fox broadcasting the game in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, and CBS (2024, 2028) and NBC (2026) airing the marquee in the other. broadcast for years. .
Fox also owns the rights to 45 men’s basketball games per season and can broadcast select women’s basketball games and Olympic sports competitions.
CBS will broadcast 9 to 11 men’s basketball games in 2023-24 and expand to 15 games in the remaining years of the deal, including 13 conference matchups. The network will also broadcast the championship game of the men’s and women’s basketball conference tournaments, along with the men’s semifinals.
NBC’s Big Ten stock only includes football, but Peacock, the network’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, will run dozens of matches in other sports. The platform is planned to have eight football matches. Peacock will broadcast 32 men’s basketball games, including 20 conference games, in the 2023-24 season, expanding to 47 men’s basketball games (32 conference games) in subsequent years. Peacock will also broadcast the opening pair of the men’s basketball conference tournament.
Peacock will feature 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, then up to 50 from 2024 to 2029. The network will broadcast at least 126 men’s basketball games and at least 49 women’s basketball games. During the men’s basketball conference tournament, four matches and four quarterfinals will be screened on BTN on Thursday. For the women’s tournament, BTN has four matches, four quarterfinals and two semifinals on Thursday. BTN remains the main home of the Olympic sports programs conference.
Warren, the conference commissioner since 2020, said this summer that he had been thinking about Big Ten expansion since he interviewed for the job. So when the conference welcomed UCLA and USC this summer, the shock to the university’s sports landscape didn’t mess up negotiations. He built the idea of expansion, just not the specific schools, into the earliest termsheets discussed with networks, he said.
“We’re a historic conference,” Warren said. “I think people recognize that we’re trying to make sure we honor our tradition, but also be smart and careful with forward-thinking, cutting-edge ideas.”
The rights fees illustrate the staggering amount of money filling the treasury of college sports programming, an evolution that can be traced through the Big Ten and its television history. In 1996, the conference was awarded a $100 million 10-year contract with ESPN which put nearly 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 netted the conference $2.8 billion over 20 years. The Pac-12, ACC, and SEC have all followed the Big Ten and launched their own branded networks, with varying degrees of success.
The Big Ten and SEC remain well ahead of rival conference revenues. The SEC signed a $3 billion deal with ESPN over a 10-year period, according to Sports Business Journal, for Saturday’s top game starting in 2024. (Other parts of that deal bring the value of the SEC’s media rights to about $700 million a year.)
The Big Ten is just the latest sports property to rack up a windfall in recent years, proving once again the value of live sports for media companies, both traditional and new. The NFL signed a deal last year with the four broadcasting networks and Amazon, which will pay it about $100 billion in a decade. Major League Baseball’s new deal 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, as streaming platforms hope to use them to gain new subscribers. (The Big Ten also had talks with Amazon.)
In the changing world of college athlete rights, Warren said, he’s open to talking with players about potential monetization models from the new deals. “I think all these outstanding issues need to be put on the table for legitimate discussion,” he said.