A Big Deal For The Big Ten. What Does It All Mean?
As you heard on Thursday, the Big Ten Conference announced a brand new media rights deal to broadcast Big Ten sporting events beginning in the fall of 2023.
The current Big Ten media rights deal was originally supposed to run through the 2023-24 school year, but the league opted to get out of it a year early.
The deal is for seven years for a total of $7-8 billion. That's right, BILLION with a capital B. FOX, CBS, NBC, FS1, BTN, and NBC's streaming service, Peacock, are all involved. This is a landmark deal for the Big Ten Conference in several areas. Some good, some not as much. Here's why:
NO MORE BIG TEN GAMES ON ESPN
After the 2022-23 school year, you will no longer see Big Ten conference games on ESPN. You may see a few non-conference games involving Big Ten teams playing other schools under contract to ESPN, but not as much as it is now. This could be a problem going forward. But with the way that cable subscribers are cutting the cord, maybe not. We'll see.
BIG TEN FOOTBALL RETURNS TO CBS
This is a big victory for "the Tiffany Network". CBS carried Big Ten football for a few years in the 1980's. But when ABC acquired the Big Ten rights in 1987, it went away.
CBS needed programming in the fall to replace Southeastern Conference football, which is leaving CBS for ESPN in 2024. They now get more of a national footprint with the Big Ten over the SEC. Folks, even though the SEC is better in football (for the most part), the SEC is way more regional in interest. Because of the their immense alumni all over the country (and the world), The Big Ten is a national brand. And therefore a much bigger deal. And that doesn't include Southern California and UCLA, who will join the B1G in the fall of 2024.
NBC GETS IN THE FRAY
The "Peacock" network's interest in college football has been limited to Notre Dame home games since 1991. But now, they'll have primetime Big Ten football every Saturday night in the fall with this new deal (except for the few times ND plays at night in South Bend).
This is a great addition for them, as they have made a killing off of NFL "Sunday Night Football" since the NFL went back to NBC in 2006. SNF is among the highest rated programs every year in the Nielsen ratings (and was number 1 this past season).
FOX, FS1, & BTN REMAIN MAJOR PLAYERS
Former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney's biggest legacy is the creation of the Big Ten Network in 2007. After some initial hassles with lack of sponsorship and some other disorganization, it has gained altitude. And it is now on steady ground. This new deal will confirm that.
FOX has found success with "Big Noon Kickoff", and it has made a dent into ESPN's coverage of college football. They've exclusively had the Michigan-Ohio State game since 2017. And their number 1 broadcast team of Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt is almost as popular as ESPN/ABC's Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit (Both teams are excellent, IMO).
Fox Sports 1 hasn't taken off like people thought it would (started up in 2013). But getting more Big Ten programming can only help the network. The more eyeballs that watch FS1, the better for them.
PEACOCK, THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
I believe that most sporting events in the next 10-20 years will go from broadcast television to streaming services. This new deal is a beginning to that. Peacock has had some trouble with people trying to find out how to get it, and then having trouble finding people wanting to pay for it (it's not free). With more games going to Peacock once the new deal takes effect, pay-per-view in college sports will ramp up. We'll find out whether that's a good thing or not.
OH YEAH, WHAT ABOUT NOTRE DAME?
This new deal probably keeps the Fighting Irish an Independent in football for the time being (which is what they want). But now with the Big Ten joining NBC, the network can lean on Notre Dame to have them schedule Big Ten teams (instead of Atlantic Coast Conference teams) for future ND home games.
NBC doesn't like games like Notre Dame-Toledo or ND-Western Michigan, or ND-Tulsa (all have been ND home games broadcast on NBC in recent years). They would rather see Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Indiana, and/or Ohio State playing them every year.
But the Irish also want to contend for the College Football Playoff every year. That will be much tougher for them if NBC forces them to schedule Big Ten teams instead of ACC schools (a much weaker football league). This will be interesting how this plays out. The current NBC deal with Notre Dame expires after the 2024-25 school year.
This deal is in response to ESPN acquiring the rights to Southeastern Conference sports a couple of years ago. It's the Big Ten telling the SEC "We're bigger than you!".
College sports is becoming now a case of "Can You Top This?" between the Big Ten and SEC. They are the two biggest leagues in college sports, and the gap is widening by the day. And a big part of it is media rights fees. Can the Big 12, Pac-12, and Atlantic Coast Conference keep up? We'll find out, but they better! Or they'll get swallowed up or be forced to merge or contract.