The television business for college football is changing. It was reported on Monday morning that ESPN had pulled out of negotiations for Big Ten rights. This means that, starting in 2023, the network will not carry any Big Ten games for the first time since 1982. And now the door is wide open for CBS and NBC to jump into the fray.
The Big Ten released this statement in regards to media rights negotiations:
“The Big Ten conference is currently working with world-class partners to complete multifaceted media rights agreements. The overall constructs of the new rights agreements have not been finalized. The conference continues to have productive meetings with both linear and direct to consumer media partners.
We are committed to delivering unparalleled resources and exposure opportunities for the Big Ten Conference member institutions, athletic programs, student-athletes, coaches and fans. We are very thankful to the media companies who recognize the value of Big Ten programming and want to deliver it to our fans around the world in a forward-thinking manner.”
Expect changes to your football-viewing schedules
When the SEC signed its new deal with ESPN to move all of its content over to the network, it allowed the conference to finally get away from the horrendous deal that saw CBS pay them $55 million per year for the rights to the coveted 3:30 ET time slot.
We’ve all grown accustomed to the intro and pivotal games that CBS has carried since agreeing to the deal that was made in 1996. But times have changed and the contracts have become larger.
Under the agreement signed by ESPN and the SEC, ABC will air the marquee game of the week. This could be late in the afternoon like it is now, or the ABC primetime slot of 8 p.m. ET.
In the past, fans of the SEC have known that at 3:30, they could flip on CBS and find the marquee game of the week. Now, with the new contract, that game will be broadcast on ABC or one of the other ESPN properties.
This means that, starting in 2024, ESPN will have the rights to all SEC football games, putting them on ABC, SEC Network, ESPN or ESPN2.
Now comes the news of the Big Ten looking for a network to provide coverage of its second tier. The conference will broadcast games on CBS at 3:30 now, giving the network something to go with after losing the prestigious SEC deal.
The New York Post reports that CBS would be paying in the neighborhood of $350 million per year for the 3:30 slot, which is massive compared to the $55 million CBS was paying the SEC off the grandfather deal.
NBC is also reportedly getting into business with the Big Ten.
NBC could pay around the $300 million range for the remaining games from the conference, most importantly the night game that ESPN/ABC has so prominently featured over the last number of years.
So what does this all mean?
The television landscape is changing and conferences are making a ton of money in the process. FOX will most certainly carry the Big Ten’s premier game at noon every Saturday. (This is a horrible time in my opinion, but money talks.)
Take for instance the Alabama vs. Texas game that FOX is broadcasting on Sept. 10, which is under the current FOX-Big 12 contract. That type of matchup is history, as the network will be solely focused on the Big Ten, while the Big 12 tries to get ESPN to raise the stakes for conference games.
I hope you’re staying with me here because it’s a tad complicated. There is a scenario where FOX and ESPN could bid for Big 12 rights and take inventory. But the absence of Texas and Oklahoma, who are joining the SEC in 2025, will lower the monetary figure.
It’s pretty simple to see what the Big Ten is trying to leverage here. They want their product in every slot on Saturday, meaning they could have a matchup on FOX at noon, then CBS would broadcast the second game at 3:30 and NBC would finish it off with a 7 p.m. game. Now, this would go up against the SEC on ESPN, but it wouldn’t matter much because this could be the third best game of the day for the Big Ten, while the SEC would be broadcasting its marquee matchup.
It’s all about the leverage and how each network can set themselves up for the future. The Pac 12 and Big 12 are the ones looking for a spot at the moment, with most of the premier kickoff times being taken away by the SEC and Big Ten.
This is ESPN vs. FOX, as the SEC and Big Ten battle it out for landscape in the television markets. Now, CBS is hoping to make a small dent by getting into business with the Big Ten, to somehow makeup for not having the biggest conference on its network.
There are billion-dollar deals everywhere and the conferences are loving it. If I were a player on a football team, I’d be looking into how I could profit even further off Name, Image and Likeness. The money is flowing.
Welcome to the new world of college athletics. Start preparing your channel guide for these new changes.