Sports Business Journal said on Tuesday the Big Ten was about to deliver huge news regarding future media rights. For the first time in 40 years, ESPN isn’t expected to be a network partner with the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the US What’s unclear is whether Amazon, Apple, or Peacock will secure streaming rights for the conference beginning in 2023.
According to the report (opens in new tab), ESPN has pulled out of Big Ten media rights negotiations. If correct, this will end one of the longest sports media relationships in the business. Instead of ESPN, the Big Ten is expected to add CBS and NBC to its list of broadcasters beginning with the 2023-24 school year. Those two networks will join Fox Sports, which has already secured streaming rights for the conference.
ESPN, the largest sports outlet in the country, rejected an offer valued at about $380 million per year. Instead of a prime-time package, the Big Ten was only willing to offer the network 13 of the conference’s “B”/”C” package of games. Fox’s contract includes coverage of the Big Ten’s “A” package of games.
The Big Ten and ESPN formed their lengthy partnership in 1982.
Under deals that could be announced as early as next week, CBS is likely to carry a Big Ten game every Saturday during the football season in the 3:30 pm ET slot, which would follow a noon game on Fox. NBC would finish the day by airing a game in the prime-time slot.
CBS and NBC are expected to pay the conference $350 million yearly for coverage.
The Big Ten is also expected to sign a contract with Apple, Amazon, or NBC’s Peacock for streaming coverage. For a long time, it seemed Amazon was the favorite to secure the rights. However, Apple restarted talks with the Big Ten in June following the surprising news that USC and UCLA would join the conference as full members in 2024.
In recent months, Amazon and Apple have both made significant moves on the sports programming front. Next month, Amazon Prime will become the exclusive home to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football coverage. Apple TV+ is the home to MLB Friday Night Baseball, and in 2023, it will become the exclusive home to MLS. Cupertino is also in the running to secure NFL Sunday Ticket programming beginning with the 2023 season.
Were Apple to secure Big Ten stream rights, games would air on Apple TV+ across its many platforms, which include the best iPhones.
Were the Big Ten to select Peacock over the other two, it could suggest the conference is finally going to make a serious play for Notre Dame to join the conference. NBC has long carried home football games for the Fighting Irish, who have long been reluctant to join a conference and give up those lucrative dollars.