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Report: Big Ten media revenue to triple with ESPN on board

Ohio State football players hold up the Big Ten logo following a Big Ten Championship Game victory over Wisconsin (2014).

ESPN set to renew media deal with Big Ten

The rumors of ESPN and the Big Ten parting ways were, apparently, greatly exaggerated. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports today ESPN will pick up the second half of the Big Ten’s media rights package and will pay the conference $190 million per year for six years. Between the split media rights packages with ESPN and FOX and CBS retaining its basketball contract, the Big Ten stands to make $2.64 billion overall. Wow.

From Ourand (with added emphasis from me);

ESPN will pay an average of $190 million per year over six years for essentially half the conference’s media rights package, according to several sources close to the talks. Two months ago, Fox Sports agreed to take the other half of the package for an average of $240 million per year. CBS Sports also has told the conference that it will renew its basketball-only package for $10 million per year.

The six-year, $2.64 billion media rights haul represents a big win for the Big Ten Conference, of course, which will see its average media rights payout nearly triple when it takes effect next fall.

Much has been made about the financial status of ESPN and its parent company, Disney, but when push comes to shove this is proof the company could not part with the perceived value that comes with live Big ten programming. ESPN may be doing some cost-trimming where it can, but the main emphasis the network is prepared to commit to is big name live programming. They get that with the Big Ten and would have been somewhat foolish to not work out a deal. The Big ten would have been silly to walk away from ESPN too. As much as the Big Ten’s relationship with FOX is valued, ESPN is still the leading name in live sports entertainment. Taking Big Ten football (and basketball) off ESPN’s airwaves would have been a dismal mistake considering how much of an edge ESPN has over FOX in the game.

ESPN will get roughly 25 football games and 50 basketball games each season, which is similar to the FOX deal already lined up. FOX, however, will continue to carry the Big Ten Football Championship Game, as it has done since the inception of the conference title game in the 2011 season following the addition of Nebraska to the conference. Per Ourand, FOX also gets first dibs on football games before ESPN, which is significant for FOX. Networks get to pick which week during the football season they will get first dibs on games. FOX will pick which week they prefer first, followed by ESPN. So if FOX wants Ohio State-Michigan in the final week of the regular season, they would be wise to pick the final week of the season as their first pick. This is all but certain to happen. ESPN will also continue to air games across its networks but will see fewer games be place don ESPNU. That is partly due to a diminishing amount of content, but this is also good for the Big Ten. More games will be on networks more fans will see between FOX, FOX Sports 1, Big Ten Network, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.

The split media arrangement with ESPN and FOX (and CBS) was always the best-case scenario for the Big Ten, and perhaps the most likely result in the end. The deal is not quite official yet, as Ourand says the agreements are still going through the necessary legal vetting, but that should be all but a formality at this stage.

Helmet sticker to John Ourand.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.