ESPN reportedly walks away from Big Ten as conference nears massive new rights deal

·3 min read

If the Big Ten is going to lose a working relationship with ESPN, it better hope it has support to fall back on. Fortunately, it appears the Big Ten has quite a safety net to fall into after ESPN reportedly opted to back out of the media rights negotiations game.

What once may have felt inconceivable has apparently become a reality. According to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, via Twitter, ESPN has taken its name out of the Big Ten media rights negotiations. By doing so, the Big Ten will be off ESPN’s air for college football and college basketball for the first time in 40 years.

As reported by Ourand, ESPN turned down a seven-year package worth $380 million per year. That now leaves the door wide open for a new contract that will bring the Big Ten to CBS and NBC, with FOX already on board. What’s more, a formal announcement could come as early as this week as details for the Big Ten’s highly-anticipated new media rights deal settle in.

It is believed CBS will feature a Big Ten game in the 3:30 p.m. ET timeslot currently used to feature the SEC Game of the Week. But with the SEC contract moving to ESPN, CBS could replace the SEC with the Big Ten in the same high-profile slot.

NBC is expected to get primetime with the Big Ten and some exclusive rights for streaming its Peacock streaming platform. All games airing on NBC will also be streamed on Peacock as well, it is safe to assume.

So, how much is at stake?

According to a report from New York Post, CBS is set to pay $350 million per year for its part of the contract. And NBC, according to Sports Business Journal, will pay another $350 million per year for its portion.

That’s a cool $700 million per year on top of whatever FOX will be paying for its rights in the noon timeslot, as well as additional airtime on FS1 and its partnership with the Big Ten Network.

And we haven’t even talked about the competition for the streaming package options. Apple and Amazon are discussing streaming rights with the Big Ten, and the competition has spiked since the news that USC and UCLA will be joining the Big Ten in 2024 as Apple came back to the table as a potential suitor.

There could still be a lot to unpack with this new media rights deal, and the negotiations could still involve ESPN before the ink dries on the new contracts. But regardless of where this all goes from here, the Big Ten is going to be swimming in an ocean of cash.

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