How The Big Ten Shot Itself In The Foot In Pursuit Of Notre Dame
Notre Dame is expected to sign a considerably more lucrative TV rights deal that will allow it to remain independent in football, according to a report from Sports Business Journal.
That means the Big Ten had better get used to being friend-zoned by Notre Dame, because that will be the status quo for the foreseeable future. And the Big Ten has itself to blame.
Notre Dame's current exclusive TV rights contract with NBC, which expires in 2025, pays the school $22 million per year. Sports Business Journal reports that the Fighting Irish can expect that to increase to about $60 million annually when their next deal is signed.
CBS Sports reported in July that Notre Dame was seeking $75 million per year in media rights revenue, a figure that would ensure the school's football independence remains economically viable. Notre Dame earns about $7 million per year by way of its partnership with the ACC, which, when added on to the reported $60 million Sports Business Journal reports the school will get annually in its next deal, would get Notre Dame very close to that $75 million threshold.
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None of this would be possible without the Big Ten going into business with NBC. It was reported last week that the conference was finalizing its new media rights agreement with FOX, CBS, and NBC, the latter two of which will pay $350 million per year.
Many speculated that the Big Ten gaining a mutual business partner with Notre Dame would help the league in luring the Fighting Irish into its ranks. But actually, the Big Ten's pursuit of Notre Dame has ironically secured the school's football independence for many more years.
Sports Business Journal reports that Notre Dame's next deal with NBC will pay more in part because the Irish and the Big Ten can work together through the network to schedule better games. That could drastically improve the quality of Notre Dame's home slate by way of higher-profile opponents and, consequently, greater viewership.
For example, NBC will broadcast Notre Dame home contests in 2022 that feature lackluster visitors like Marshall, Cal, Stanford, UNLV, and Boston College. Imagine if two of those were replaced by the likes of Michigan and Michigan State, both of whom are historic rivals of Notre Dame that command far greater attention and interest.
Translation: The Big Ten's new partnership with NBC just empowered Notre Dame to charge NBC a higher premium for its exclusive TV rights.
CBS Sports also previously reported that, during preliminary negotiations of a new TV deal, NBC told Notre Dame it would need quality lead-out college football games to make a $70-plus-million contract profitable for the network:
For NBC to feel comfortable raising Notre Dame's valuation to such a level, it is seeking "shoulder programming" (in this case, games played before and/or after Notre Dame's contests) from a Power Five conference to enhance its college football coverage.
When such a move had been speculated previously, the Big Ten was the conference mentioned most often as a target. However, the Big 12 has emerged as a strong option to fill NBC's shoulder programming needs.
In partnering with NBC, the Big Ten delivered Notre Dame the exact kind of economic viability necessary for Fighting Irish football to remain independent.
In so doing, the Big Ten has virtually guaranteed that its longing for Notre Dame will remain unrequited for at least the rest of this decade.