The new deals, starting in 2023 and announced Thursday morning, will give the conference an NFL-like schedule spread across three college football broadcast networks on Saturdays with windows set for each — noon on Fox; 3:30 p.m. on CBS; and prime time on NBC. This is the first time in four decades that the conference will not have a formal partnership with ESPN.
Additions USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, which will give the conference its footprint in the lucrative Los Angeles television market, boosted the value of the agreements as the multi-billion dollar college sports industry navigates a rapidly changing landscape. Beginning in 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 that was once prized for its regional appeal.
“What the expansion has done for us and our fans has really reduced the size of the United States and the shrinkage of our country,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in an interview, “as people realize that they will be able to watch our teams compete and their schools compete in the morning, noon and night and at unique times during year, like Black Friday and from coast to coast. This is going to be really exciting.”
Other Big Ten games, including men’s and women’s basketball, will be broadcast via Fox (and FS1), CBS and NBC, along with the Big Ten Network, of which Fox is 61 percent owned, and Peacock, the streaming service for NBC. Deals continue through the 2029-30 season.
Even in a more divided media environment, ESPN remains the country’s dominant sports network. Her Daily Conversations group leads the day’s sports conversations and reserves the rights to the College Football Playoff. For decades, ESPN has been a key factor in bringing the Big Ten on television across the country.
“We are an essential component of college athletics, especially college football,” Warren said. “I think everyone understands that it is important that we all work together and have a collaborative voice. I am confident, as we stand at the Big Ten, that we will be able to have a voice in shaping the future of college athletics on and off the field.”
Fox and FS1 will continue to show a large portion of the conference’s football matches: 24 to 27 games in 2023, and then 30 to 32 games in the following years.
In 2023, CBS will broadcast seven football matches. The network is still tied to the Securities and Exchange Commission through a contract that requires the conference’s best game to be broadcast exclusively by CBS at 3:30 p.m. Beginning in 2024, the Big Ten will occupy an afternoon window throughout the season, and CBS will broadcast 14 or 15 games each general, including one in the afternoon on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
NBC will broadcast from 14 to 16 football games each season, presenting programs described as “Big Ten Saturday Night,” in an effort to mirror the network’s success with “Sunday Night Football.”
These three major networks will share the rights to broadcast Big Ten football with Fox broadcasting the game on television in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029, and CBS (2024 and 2028) and NBC (2026) broadcasting the Marquee event in other years.
Fox also owns the rights to 45 men’s basketball games each season and can broadcast women’s basketball and Olympic sports competitions.
CBS will broadcast 9 to 11 men’s basketball games in 2023-24, then increase to 15 games, including 13 conference games, in the remaining years of the deal. The network will also broadcast the championship game of both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as the men’s semi-final matches.
The Big Ten on NBC only includes football, but Peacock, the streaming service for consumers, will be broadcasting dozens of competitions in other sports. The platform is scheduled to contain eight football matches. Peacock will broadcast 32 men’s basketball games, including 20 conference games, in the 2023-24 season, then increase to as many as 47 men’s basketball games (32 conference games) in the following years. The Peacocks will also broadcast the opening evening games of the Men’s Basketball Conference Championships.
The Peacock will broadcast 30 women’s basketball games, including 20 collegiate games, and the opening night of the Women’s Basketball Conference Championship. The platform can also broadcast up to 40 live events per year of Olympic sports.
BTN will carry 38 to 41 football matches in 2023, and then up to 50 matches 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 will be shown on Thursday and four quarterfinal matches on BTN. For the women’s tournament, BTN will play four matches on Thursday, four quarter-final matches and one semi-final round. BTN will continue to be the conference headquarters for Olympic Games programmes.
Warren, the conference’s commissioner since 2020, said this summer that he’s been considering expanding the Big Ten since he interviewed for the job. So when the conference welcomed UCLA and UCLA this summer, shockwaves in the college sports scene didn’t shake the negotiations. He said he built the idea of expansion, and not just specific schools, into early term papers that were discussed with the networks.
“We are a historic conference,” Warren said. “I think people realize that we’re trying to make sure that we respect our traditions but also that we’re smart and wise in terms of forward thinking for cutting edge ideas.”
The rights fee illustrates the huge amount of money filling the coffers of college sports programming, a development that can be traced back through the Big Ten and its television history. In 1996, Conference secured a 10-year, $100 million contract with ESPN that put nearly all 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 brought the conference $2.8 billion over 20 years. Pac-12, ACC, and SEC have all followed the Big Ten and launched their own branded networks, with mixed success.
The Big Ten and SEC remain far ahead in terms of competing conference revenues. The Securities and Exchange Commission signed a deal with ESPN worth $3 billion over 10 years, According to Sports Business Journalfor the best Saturday game starting in 2024. (Other parts of that deal raise the value of the SEC’s media rights to about $700 million each year.)
The Big Ten is the latest sports property that has racked up windfall gains in recent years, proving once again the value of live sports to media companies, both traditional and new. The NFL signed a deal with the four broadcast networks and Amazon last year that will pay him about $100 billion over a decade. Major League Baseball’s new deal with Fox Sports is worth more than $5 billion a year. Last year, the Premier League doubled the annual value of US rights fees when it re-signed with NBC for $2.7 billion over six years. Live sports continue to play a major role in maintaining cable customers, while streaming platforms hope to use them to attract new subscribers. (The Big Ten have also held talks with Amazon.)
Warren said that in the evolving world of college athlete rights, he’s open to having a conversation with players about potential revenue-sharing models from new deals. “I think all of these open issues should be on the table for a legal discussion,” he said.
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