Aug 18, 2022 - Economy

Big Ten Conference reaches record media rights deal

Illustration of a football in the shape of a dollar sign, sitting on a kickoff tee.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

CBS and NBC join Fox in landing Big Ten media rights that will pay the soon-to-be-expanded college sports conference more than $1 billion annually, two sources familiar with the deals told Axios.

Why it matters: The Big Ten, which is adding UCLA and USC starting with the 2024 school year, becomes the first conference to eclipse the $1 billion mark for its annual media rights pay.

  • The deal, announced Thursday morning, ends a 40-year relationship with ESPN, which has held Big Ten rights since 1982.

The big picture: This would effectively give CBS a replacement for the Southeastern Conference (SEC), while NBC gets a bigger foothold in college football outside of Notre Dame.

  • ESPN is taking over SEC football rights starting in 2024 as part of an expanded deal with the conference.
  • Fox, given its 61% stake in the Big Ten Network, was never in danger of losing its rights and was even involved in the talks with other networks.
  • NBC will now own both Saturday and Sunday nights. It also airs an NFL game with "Sunday Night Football."

Details: The Big Ten would have three national game windows on Saturdays: early afternoon on Fox, late afternoon on CBS and primetime on NBC.

  • That won't happen until the second year of its deal, as CBS still has two years left on its current SEC deal, which mandates that CBS put those games on in the late afternoon window on Saturdays.
  • Once the SEC moves over to ESPN/ABC in 2024, CBS' Big Ten games may go head-to-head with the conference it used to air.

By the numbers: The New York Post's Andrew Marchand reports that CBS will pay $350 million a year for its Big Ten package, more than the about $300 million that ESPN is paying for SEC football alone. Two sources told Axios that both CBS and NBC will pay roughly the same amount.

What's next: ESPN is now expected to be aggressive in renewing its media deals with the Pac-12 and Big 12, both of which come up for renewal over the next couple of years.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to note that the New York Post reported ESPN is paying $300 million to air SEC football, not $330 million.

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