After 40 years, ESPN is apparently out of the Big Ten business.
The network on Tuesday withdrew from negotiations on trying to keep a Big Ten package in some form after the conference is expected to strike mega-deals with Fox, CBS, and NBC.
ESPN apparently declined the Big Ten’s seven-year, $380 million offer, apparently walking away from the table. It’s the end of an era for ESPN, who has carried Big Ten sports since 1982, while ABC had carried them since 1966. ESPN and ABC share The Walt Disney Co. as a corporate parent.
Beginning in 2024 (though some reports stated the deals begin in 2023), the Big Ten will have three marquee games on over-the-air broadcasters. Fox is expected to be the conference’s main network partner with the network getting the main “Big Noon” (11 a.m. Chicago time) slot, with CBS getting a mid-afternoon game (around 2:30 p.m. or so) and NBC getting a prime-time game, following Notre Dame football. Outside of the Irish and several New Year’s Day bowl games, NBC has never really been in the college football business full-time.
The Big Ten game is replacing the SEC one on CBS, which is moving to ABC in the same mid-afternoon time slot, part of a $700 million deal made nearly a year ago.
Fox and NBC are also getting additional rights, for FS1 and Big Ten Network (which Fox has a financial stake in) and for streamer Peacock, respectively. The deals are expected to be announced later this week.
This comes as college sports is undergoing massive realignment in 2024 – the same year the new Big Ten deals take effect as USC and UCLA are both shifting from the their longtime Pac12 home to the Big Ten, bringing the second-ranked Los Angeles market into the conference.
In all, the new media deals are expected to bring in more than $1 billion to the Big Ten Conference annually, no doubt fueled by the two new L.A.-based schools. The Big Ten will be the only major conference to have teams in the top three media markets: New York (Rutgers, who’s based across the Hudson River in New Jersey); Los Angeles (USC and UCLA), and Chicago (Evanston-based Northwestern and the University of Illinois, located in downstate Champaign.) It’s a huge win for Fox, who recently lured White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti away from ESPN where he’ll be part of the #2 college football announcing team, not to mention announcing college basketball games for Fox and FS1.
It is not yet known how the new deals would affect other sports – notably college basketball though CBS already has an existing Big Ten basketball package, airing games mostly on Sunday afternoons and the Big Ten Basketball Championship Game. It’s likely FS1 and BTN will pick up the former ESPN games.
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