Dochterman: Big Ten wins jackpot for revenue, exposure with TV deal with Fox, CBS, NBC

When it comes to media rights negotiations, the Big Ten are leading the way. The rest of college athletics follows suit, and then the old conference takes a new, more lucrative track.

It’s been that way since the U.S. Supreme Court wrested television rights from the NCAA in 1984. It’s been that way since Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany chose to partner with Fox to create a network rather than using the consumer price index for an unpredictable result. raise. That’s how Delany opted for a six-year contract in 2017 rather than locking in the rights for a decade or more. That’s how the Big Ten announced this morning that its football games will appear on three linear networks starting in 2023.

The Big Ten do it because they can. When Fox, CBS and NBC combine to pay more than $1.2 billion a year in rights fees, the Big Ten can afford to walk away from ESPN. No other conference is bold enough to do this. No other conference can afford to do this. But no other conference will place its top three games in three impactful viewing windows on three major networks starting next year either.

Fox, which owns 61% of Big Ten Network, will expand its “Big Noon Kickoff” brand and collect the league’s best game each week. Next year, CBS will pick up seven Big Ten games as it moves away from the SEC, which frees up its hallowed 3:30 p.m. ET slot for ABC/ESPN. CBS’ Big Ten count increases to 15 in 2024, just in time for USC and UCLA to join the league. NBC will air a primetime kickoff every week at 7:30 p.m. ET. He has 16 Big Ten games next year and 15 a year from 2024.

There will be a small number of prime time games on Friday on FS1. Black Friday will consist of an afternoon contest on CBS and another on NBC during prime time. NBC’s Peacock streaming service will air eight games — four non-conference, four in-conference. BTN will broadcast its usual number of competitions.

How did the Big Ten pull this off? It has major brands and leading institutions. In 2024, the league’s designated market areas by Nielsen Ratings will include the top four markets (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia) and seven in the top 15 (No. 9 Washington DC, No. 14 Minneapolis, No. 15 Detroit) in its 12-state footprint. More importantly, it generates high marks.

Last year, 72 college football games drew at least 3.5 million viewers. The Big Ten (32) and SEC (31) have dominated, appearing in a total of 58 of those games, including five head-to-head matchups. In league games alone, it was about the same with 18 Big Ten contests reaching that number and 17 for the SEC.

For the first time since 1986, Big Ten regular season football will not appear on ABC. Same with ESPN, which first televised Big Ten action in 1982 when the NCAA controlled media rights and became an annual partner in 1989. That kind of departure could have crippled any conference there. ten years old. The same would be true today for any league except the Big Ten or the SEC.

Looking back, it seems almost inevitable that the Big Ten and ESPN will go their separate ways. An infamous lowball offer to Delany in 2004 left the commissioner looking for a partner for a league-owned network. Fox signed with the joint venture for the August 30, 2007 launch, which syndicated the Big Ten games outside of ESPN’s control. In 2016, ESPN again submitted a low bid, resulting in Fox securing the top tier Big Ten rights. This time, ESPN battled through negotiations for 2023 and beyond before pulling out a $380 million offer.

But the fresh start for the Big Ten — and ESPN — relieves the constant pressure on both entities. ESPN can now move forward with its relationship with the SEC regardless of its impact on the Big Ten. The SEC’s accusations of bias that echo across the Big Ten nation will ring hollow when the league doesn’t appear on the World Wide Leader. The SEC’s football prowess gave him a platform on the sport’s power broker that rarely existed for Big Ten teams outside of Ohio State. Even Buckeyes fans bristled in Bristol, staging a 2019 “College GameDay” boycott in favor of Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” show ahead of Ohio State-Penn State.

While still the most influential voice in college football, ESPN no longer monopolizes the sports message like it once did. ESPN used to be able to make or break teams based on how its analysts judged them, and it seemed to favor SEC teams. In 2013, the morning after his team pulled off one of the most breathtaking plays in sports history, Auburn director of athletics Jay Jacobs appeared on a Sunday “SportsCenter” and s publicly vouched that their one-loss champion would earn a shot in the BCS title match. on a then-undefeated team from Ohio State.

“It would be, quite frankly, un-American for us not to have the chance to go to Pasadena if we’re able to beat Missouri, and I feel the same way about Missouri,” Jacobs said on “SportsCenter “.

Reactions were mixed at ESPN and other outlets, but the rhetoric devolved into a debate over whether a one-loss SEC champion deserved a BCS spot on any undefeated power conference, let alone the schedule. Big Ten lighthouse. The point was moot in the end with Ohio State losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, but the Spartans to a loss – who had beaten every Big Ten opponent by double digits that year – n hadn’t said a single word in their favour. .

When the SEC announced that it would migrate all of its games to ESPN starting in 2024, it opened up CBS to Big Ten exploration. Then, with NBC interested in bundling Big Ten games with its Notre Dame package, the league’s departure from the ESPN tent was imminent.

In 2010 or 2015, even the Big Ten leaving ESPN weren’t worth the risk. But once Fox bought the top-tier rights to the Big Ten in 2017, the league turned that network into a major college football player. CBS is returning to the Big Ten regular season fold for the first time since 1986, and NBC’s influence will grow. All three networks will air a Big Ten championship game, and the league will support their bids to host the college football playoffs after that contract with ESPN expires in early 2026.

With football games appearing in three marquee windows on three major networks, the Big Ten hit the jackpot in terms of revenue and exposure. The last question that remains is, can he back it up on the pitch?

(Photo: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today)