Big Ten’s complex new deal redefines how conferences distribute media rights
By: Joshua Strauss
Sep. 22, 2022
Photo Credit: Associated Press
Describing the changes to the world of college sports over the past few months as "game-changing" would be an understatement.
Shocking announcements by Oklahoma and Texas during the summer of 2021 that they would join the SEC marked what many see as the beginning of the end of the traditional “power five” structure. The following summer, UCLA and USC stated that they too would be joining a new conference, The Big Ten, only confirming that a new epoch was upon us.
This consolidation of power by the SEC and the Big Ten (which will be the first conference to reach from coast to coast post-expansion) has brought with it a substantial opportunity for the new “Power Two.” With a swathe of media licensing deals set to expire in 2023 and 2024, the SEC and Big Ten entered negotiations from a much different position than when the current agreements were signed.
The SEC, eager to secure stability for its conference, signed a 10-year, $3 billion deal with ESPN and ABC for exclusive media rights to their football and basketball games. This marks a substantial financial increase from the previous deal with long-term partner CBS, which was netting the conference just $55 million a year. However, it’s worth noting that the SEC chose to do this in December of 2020, just under one year before their expansion announcement.
Many of the licensing deals in the year following the SEC’s agreement brought up the question of what the conference left on the table in their grab at a long-term partnership. The SEC wasn’t alone in signing new and much larger licensing deals. Elsewhere within the landscape of sports, Major League Soccer and Formula One both inked significant media rights deals, and the College Football Playoffs are expected to triple their current media rights deal after they announced an expansion to twelve teams.
Of all the new media deals being cashed in on, one stands out; the Big Ten conference signed a unique seven-year media rights deal. Unlike MLS, which joined forces with Apple for the next ten years, or the SEC which has agreed to become part of the Disney Kingdom until 2034, the Big Ten will be split.
The league signed a three-way deal this August with CBS, FOX, and NBC that will see the three networks and Peacock, NBC’s direct-to-consumer offering, share rights to the conference’s football, basketball, and Olympic sports offerings. With each network expected to pay $350 million a year, the Big Ten’s deal will garner the conference just over $1 billion a year and a lifetime contract value in excess of $7 billion.
The Big Ten’s deal is the most lucrative in college sports history and will serve as the gold standard in sports media deals moving forward. The innovative structure of the deal will see Big Ten content on six different channels or platforms: FOX, FS1, CBS, Big Ten Network (BTN), NBC, and Peacock. The graphic at the bottom of this page simplifies the way the Big Ten has split its broadcasting rights. As for which conference gets each game, the Big Ten Championship will rotate between FOX, CBS, and NBC, whereas regular series games will be chosen through an annual draft system organized by the conference and FOX. FOX will broadcast games at noon, CBS will air games during the 3:30pm window, and NBC will broadcast during the primetime window.