Earlier this week, the Sports Business Journal reported that ESPN, “barring any last minute change of direction,” would be without a Big Ten conference football and basketball game for the first time in 40 years. This comes after the sports media giant reportedly declined the Big Ten’s seven-year, $380 million for part of the rights to broadcast games.
It appears with the severance that ABC will also take its exit from owning media rights to the conference. Both ABC and ESPN had long-standing agreements with the Big Ten. ESPN first struck a deal with the conference in 1982. ABC had even more history, first carrying Big Ten games in 1966.
The other networks left in the mix for the Big Ten include Fox, CBS and NBC, with the latter two emerging as the frontrunners to secure conference rights along with FOX. which agreed to a rights package a few months ago. FOX’s package includes a football game at 12 p.m. EST and other football games on FS1 and Big Ten Network.
No deals have been finalized between CBS and NBC yet, but it appears the two could be splitting a package. CBS would reportedly get the 3:30 p.m. eastern time game slot and NBC would carry primetime games. This time slot would cost both CBS and NBC around $350 million per year. Peacock, the NBC streaming service, would also have games. Amazon also put a bid in, though it’s clear NBC and CBS are out in front.
With ESPN walking away from its relationship with the Big Ten, they now have the ability to pursue other conferences. In the mix would be the Big 12 and the Pac-12, as they are also in search of new media rights deals. ESPN will also have their sights on deals with NCAA Championships and the College Football Playoff. However that pans out for the network, they do have their 10-year contract with the SEC coming up starting in 2024.
ESPN appeared to reject the final offer from the conference because it included fewer rights to marquee games than the current agreement it has. The offer also did not include direct to consumer options for the network, which would be utilized by its ESPN+ streaming service.