When then-Fox broadcaster Joe Buck expressed an interest in taking his talents to ESPN with a year still remaining on his contract, ESPN and Fox entered negotiations to make that wish a reality.
Rather than settle for cash considerations or a broadcast player to be named later, Fox set their sights much higher: an additional Big Ten football broadcast. They wanted the rights to the 2022 Thursday night college football opener between Penn State and Purdue.
The reason? Big Ten football generates millions of dollars in ad revenue. And that number increases exponentially when that game is on opening weekend and in primetime, as the PSU-Purdue will be this fall.
Fox trades Joe Buck for a Boilermaker.
SBJ has the details of what ESPN had to give up to get Fox Sports to let the announcer out of his contract a year early.
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) March 21, 2022
Per Sports Business Journal, ESPN and Fox Sports signed a contract with the Big Ten in 2017, which allows each network to carry 27 Big Ten football games per season. But because of the Buck trade, Fox will have the rights to 28 games this season, and ESPN will have the rights to 26.
Similar to a standard pro sports draft, each network gets “draft picks” before each season which enables them to select the broadcasts rights for the weekend of their choosing. Networks do not pick specific games, they select weekends. However, they already know who is playing each weekend and that certain dates, such as the annual Michigan-Ohio state tilt on Thanksgiving weekend, are popular.
Each year, Fox starts with the first overall pick and ESPN selects second. The networks follow that same pattern (Fox, then ESPN) until all the weekends have been selected. Because of the Buck trade, Fox ended up with an additional pick and asked ESPN not to select the Penn State – Purdue opener during any of their selection opportunities. ESPN obliged, allowing Fox to snag the opening weekend and the rights to broadcast the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers in prime time.
John Ourand noted that had Fox sought significantly more compensation for Buck, ESPN would have likely walked away from the trade, despite the fact that Buck wants to continue pairing with longtime partner Troy Aikman, who recently moved to ESPN. Had they gone that route, ESPN would’ve likely offered their Monday Night Football play-by-play spot to Al Michaels, a broadcasting free agent who will likely soon sign with Amazon but who might also entertain other networks for the right price.
But in the end, Michaels wasn’t a factor, and ESPN, Fox and Buck all walked away from the deal feeling like B1G winners.
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