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#pounditWednesday, April 17, 2024

ESPN makes major decision with Big Ten rights package

Kevin Warren smiling

Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Big 10 commissioner Kevin Warren during the Michigan Wolverines game against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has carried Big Ten sports for the last four decades, but that run will soon come to an end.

The Big Ten’s current media rights deal is ending in 2023. The conference has been in discussions with various networks who are trying to acquire their media rights. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported on Tuesday that ESPN has pulled out of the negotiations. The Big Ten was seeking $380 million per year over a seven-year deal from ESPN.

FOX has already reached an agreement to pick up the Big Ten’s “A” package for college football games. CBS and NBC are favored to pick up the remaining games now that ESPN has bowed out of the bidding war.

Assuming CBS and NBC do reach deals with the Big Ten, here is what the schedule would look like for nationally-televised Big Ten college football games on Saturdays:
12:30 pm ET – FOX
3:30 pm ET – CBS
8:00 pm ET – NBC

If NBC lands a Saturday night package for premier Big Ten football games, that would coincide nicely with Notre Dame joining the conference. NBC could also stream some games on Peacock.

ABC has televised Big Ten games since 1966, and ESPN has had their games since 1982. CBS has been aggressive in trying to pursue Big Ten rights because they are losing their SEC package to ESPN beginning in 2024. That is likely a big reason why ESPN did not allow the Big Ten to name its price.

Assuming ESPN loses the Big Ten, that could be good news for the Big 12 and Pac-12. ESPN could potentially reach an agreement with one or both of those sinking conferences.


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