Three big unanswered questions about the Big Ten Media Deal (2023)

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

Last week, the basic framework of the Big Ten's next media deal began to leak out. The Big Ten will broadcast games with FOX, CBS and NBC. ESPN, who has broadcast Big Ten athletic events since the early 1980s, will reportedly not be a partner.

Assuming all of these reports are correct, this framework creates a unique broadcast arrangement for the Big Ten. It's going to make an absolute boatload of money, with the total value of the deal easily exceeding a billion dollars. It will give Big Ten football three different broadcast timeslots on Saturdays (noon for FOX, 3:30 ET for CBS, and primetime for NBC), and give the conference at least one streaming partner in Peacock.

Naturally, there are all sorts of big questions about this deal. What does it mean for Notre Dame? (Reportedly, Notre Dame is very happy that NBC is making a bigger push into college football) What will the final dollar figure be? How long is the deal? What does it mean for additional conference expansion?

Those are great questions. The Big Ten is expected to announce the deal as early as this week, so some of them could be answered very soon. Others will take some time.

I have three big unanswered questions. One of them, hopefully, should be cleared up whenever the Big Ten drops that press release...but two others won't become clear for a while.

Will the Big Ten's new broadcast partners beef up their non-broadcast media operations?

Last week, SI spoke to multiple college sports industry sources who said that the Big Ten's decision to move away from ESPN is "risky."

(Video) Live Show: Big Ten Expansion Door is still wide open and what did Rick Neuheisel say today on ESPN R

One of those reasons is because ESPN wields power and influence beyond broadcast windows. The College Football Playoff is a 100% ESPN-broadcast operation right now (that's...not going to be the case for the next Playoff contract), and the network will have partnerships with the SEC, ACC, and almost certainly at least one (if not both) of the Pac-12 and Big 12 in the near future. ESPN+ also coverers nearly every mid-major conference.

But beyond that mass of inventory, ESPN also has a huge newsroom that covers college sports. They have affiliated radio stations all over the country. They have massively popular podcasts. They can promote their college sports brands on NFL broadcasts, on daytime programming, online, on social media...everywhere. ESPN has the capacity to drive the conversation on basically every platform.

FOX and NBC can't do that the same way ESPN can...or at least, not right now.

Addressing that isn't a totally new concept. I don't think writing this will get me in trouble...but back in 2015, NBCUniversal bought a stake in Vox Media (the parent company of SB Nation, where I worked before launching Extra Points) and Buzzfeed. At the time, there was talk that NBC planned to use their investment, in part, to create digital programming to help promote their sports broadcast partnerships (Notre Dame football, the Golf Channel, professional soccer, etc). For a lot of reasons outside the scope of this newsletter, that mostly didn't happen, and now, of course, Vox laid off most of their SB Nation that's not really an option anymore.

Fox Sporitsopped most of their online writing staff back in 2017, and even after a few strategic hires, does not have anywhere close to the college sports writing presence of ESPN, CBS, etc. NBC shut down their college football and college basketball web properties in 2020.

It is possible that in 2023, the benefits of being able to support broadcast rights with a robust digital and/or radio presence have diminished. Maybe it doesn't matter that NBC has very little in the way of holistic college football coverage. But I would not be surprised if Fox, CBS, or NBC (or shoot, even Apple, Amazon, or other streaming partners) decided to hire some writers or make strategic investments to support their new multimillion-dollar media rights spend.

What does this mean for college basketball?

Make no mistake about it, Big Ten football inventory is what is driving the bus for these media rights deals. But those aren't the only broadcasts that have value. ESPN, Fox, and CBS currently carry Big Ten men's basketball games. The ESPN family of networks typically carries around 80 basketball games a year, including the highly popular Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Big Ten women's basketball, volleyball, and softball games are occasionally carried on linear networks as well.

(Video) Big Ten Coaches Speak with the Media at Day 2 of the 2022-23 Big Ten Basketball Media Days

That's a lot of inventory, inventory that isn't likely to be completely swallowed up by Fox since they don't have the sports inventory space that ESPN does. Will CBS increase the number of games they cover, likely on weekends? Will more basketball inventory get moved to Peacock or other streaming services? Could Fox even sublicense some of the inventory to ESPN?

Technically, the Big Ten/ACC challenge could continue, with Fox (or whoever) owning the rights to the Big Ten home games, and ESPN carrying the ACC home games. But I wouldn't be shocked if the series simply ends after the current event contract expires, and Fox/CBS/whoever seeks to create their own MTE or conference-wide inventory that they completely control.

At the 11:43 mark, my colleague Bryan Fischer asked Bob Tompson, former president of Fox Sports, about what he thinks the Big Ten will do with basketball rights:

In this interview, Thompson says "don't totally rule out some sort of sublicense deal with ESPN for basketball only."

(You can always watch this full interview by signing up for Collegiate Sports Connect)

What are these schools gonna do with the money?

I am asking this legitimately, not cynically.

Maybe the final headline number is $1.1 billion. Maybe it's $1.4 billion. I don't think it really matters that much. No matter what, Big Ten schools are about to make a lot more money each year from television.

(Video) Men's Basketball | 2022 Big Ten Basketball Media Days | Chris Collins Press Conference

Some of that money will need to go to paying for increased travel and logistical costs. Schools like UCLA, Maryland, and Rutgers could use that money to pay down institutional debt.

But most Big Ten schools are not heavily relying on student fees or cash-related direct institutional support. Most Big Ten schools already have high-level athletic facilities. Most Big Ten schools already pay high salaries for coaches and high-level staff. It is difficult (not impossible, but difficult) to point to many examples of a sport that a Big Ten school wants to be competitive in, but hasn't, due to resource investment. This is not the MAC. These schools, yes, even UCLA, were already rich.

Are we to expect that schools will actually save their cash windfall for several years, in anticipation of a world where they need to directly compensate athletes? Do we expect Big Ten schools to finally take baseball investment seriously? To pay competitive salaries for junior athletic department staffers to actually want to stay in their jobs? To start new sport--lol okay there's no way that's happening without lawsuits, c'mon.

There are only so many things you can gold plate, so many facilities to build, and so many analysts to hire. Saving the money, or sending it back to central campus, would likely be the most prudent pathway, but when has fiscal responsibility ruled college sports? What's the plan, the vision, for a world where Big Ten schools suddenly have $30 million more each season?

The cynical answer is that it just gets spent on consultants, head coaches, assistants, and lawyers. That may be what happens.

Let's see if anybody has a better idea.

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Three big unanswered questions about the Big Ten Media Deal (1)

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(Video) 2022 Big Ten Basketball Media Days | Collins, Audige, Buie

Three big unanswered questions about the Big Ten Media Deal (2)

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Who owns the Big Ten Network? ›

Big Ten Network

How many teams are in the Big 10? ›

Is Big Ten Network on Fox Sports? ›

Big Ten Network's TV Everywhere service is now part of Fox Sports. In order to watch live streaming of televised games airing on Big Ten Network, FOX, or FS1 please visit or download the Fox Sports app.

Will Big Ten expand again? ›

Though the Big Ten reached a historic seven-year deal with CBS, Fox and NBC on Thursday, the conference may soon have more inventory on its plate. The Big Ten may consider further expansion before -- or even after -- its new media rights agreement with the three broadcast behemoths on July 1, 2023.

What will happen to Big Ten Network? ›

BTN will broadcast up to 41 games in 2023 and a maximum of 50 games per year afterward. NBC will broadcast 16 regular-season Big Ten games in 2023 and then 15 games per year from 2024 onward. Games on NBC will simultaneously stream on Peacock. NBC will carry a primetime game on Black Friday as well.

Why is it called Big Ten? ›

Once upon on a time, ten of the nation's public universities got together to form standards for intercollegiate athletics. That group, known as the Big Ten, still exists and proclaims to hold itself to high standards in not only athletics, but in academics and school spirit as well.

Who was the original Big Ten? ›

Big Ten Conference, formerly Western Intercollegiate Conference, one of the oldest college athletic conferences in the United States, formed in 1896 by the Universities of Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and Purdue and Northwestern universities.

Is the Big 10 adding teams? ›

Big Ten in latest college football realignment

The Big Ten kicked off the latest round of college football expansion and realignment when it voted to add USC and UCLA in time for the 2024 college football season.

How much is Big Ten Network a month? ›

Watch Big Ten Network on Vidgo

Vidgo English Pro Price: The service costs $59.95 per month. (Sign up). Vidgo Devices: Vidgo is supported on available on Android, iOS, Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV. You can also stream the service on up to 3 devices at the same time.

How much does Big 10 plus cost? ›

Here's how much they cost: Conference pass: Annual: $199.95. Monthly: 14.95.

Is Big Ten Network owned by Disney? ›

Big Ten Network (BTN) is an American sports network based in Chicago, Illinois.
Big Ten Network.
OwnerFox Sports Media Group (Fox Corporation) (61%) Big Ten Conference (39%)
Sister channelsFox Sports 1 Fox Sports 2 Fox Soccer Plus Fox Deportes
18 more rows

How much money does each school get from the Big Ten Network? ›

The conference has paid out right around $50 million per school under its current terms. That per-school average is not expected to change much in 2022-2023, the final year of the current deal.

Why is Notre Dame not in the Big Ten? ›

Notre Dame will not join the Big Ten after its new media rights, but to the victors go the spoils. With NBC getting into the Big Ten football business, don't be shocked if Notre Dame starts playing regional rival Michigan with greater regularity going forward.

Is UCLA pulling out of the Big 10? ›

UCLA and USC will not be joining the conference until 2024, but they will be earning an even share of the conference revenue the moment they arrive. Payouts are expected to approach $100 million per school annually.

What is the cheapest way to get BTN? ›

What is the cheapest way to get the Big Ten Network? Sling TV Blue is the least expensive option for watching the Big Ten Network. It costs just $35 for Sling Blue plus $11 more for the Sports Extra add-on, for a total of $46 per month.

Who has NFL TV rights? ›

Current broadcasting contracts
Broadcast PartnerContract TermAnnual Value
Fox: NFC Sundays2023–33$2.2bn
CBS / CBS Entertainment Group / Paramount Global2023–33$2.1bn
NBC / NBCUniversal / Comcast2023–33$2bn
Amazon: Thursdays2022–33$1bn
6 more rows

How many teams are in the Big 10 for football? ›

Power ranking all 14 Big Ten teams heading into the 2022 season... College football season is on fast approach, as the programs who are competing in 'Week 0' have officially begun game week.

Is Big Ten Network owned by Disney? ›

Big Ten Network (BTN) is an American sports network based in Chicago, Illinois.
Big Ten Network.
OwnerFox Sports Media Group (Fox Corporation) (61%) Big Ten Conference (39%)
Sister channelsFox Sports 1 Fox Sports 2 Fox Soccer Plus Fox Deportes
18 more rows

Does the Big 10 network make money? ›

Topping $1 Billion a Year, Big Ten Signs Record TV Deal for College Conference. The agreement splits the Big Ten's sports among Fox, NBC and CBS, and is the richest annual deal for any college sports league.

Why does Big Ten make so much money? ›

Why did Southern California and UCLA join the Big Ten after being members of the Pacific-12 (Pac-12) conference for more than 60 years? Simple: money. The Big Ten has a bigger television contract (meaning more money) for showing its football games than the Pac-12.

How much does Big Ten Network pay schools? ›

The conference has paid out right around $50 million per school under its current terms. That per-school average is not expected to change much in 2022-2023, the final year of the current deal.


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