Sports Business Daily reports that the Big Ten has reached an agreement with Fox to televise up to 25 football games and 50 basketball games for six years. This agreement covers half of the television rights that ESPN currently has under a deal that expires after the 2016-17 season. The Big Ten will now seek bids for the remainder of the package from CBS, ESPN, NBC and Turner Sports. SBJ indicates that the remainder of the Big Ten's television package could be split again between multiple networks, as CBS and Turner Sports have shown interest in rights to basketball games.
Fox currently shares the rights to Big XII and Pac-12 football with ABC/ESPN, with the game broadcasts being split between the Fox over-the-air broadcast network (where you currently watch NFL games) and the FS1 cable network. Based on this, I expect that the 25 football games that Fox has acquired will be split between both Fox and FS1. I suspect that most weeks, one game will be on over-the-air Fox while another will be on FS1.
Each year, Fox will pay the Big Ten as much as $250 million a season for the 25 games in their half of the Big Ten's top-level rights. Keep in mind that the Big Ten's agreement with BTN continues for another fifteen years and is NOT included in this figure. How do these numbers compare to the other "Power Five" conferences?
- ACC: According to the ACC's tax returns, the ACC earned $197.2 million in 2013-14 for their television rights from ESPN and Raycom.
- Big XII: $203 million annually for the ESPN/ABC/Fox package, which covers all but one football game per school each season. (That game is what the Longhorn Network gets to televise.)
- Pac-12: In 2019, the Pac-12 will receive $250 million to air 45 football games and 68 basketball games.
- SEC: According to the SEC's tax returns, the conference earned $347 million in 2013-14 for their television rights from CBS and ESPN, which includes the SEC ESPN Network.
It's unclear what the Big Ten will earn with the other half of their media rights, but even if you conservatively estimate $150 million for another 25 football games and 50 basketball games, that would seem to exceed the SEC's revenue numbers - even before you factor in the value of the BTN revenue. (And blow away the numbers for the ACC, Big XII and Pac-12.)
SBD also reports that this deal does not include digital rights, which would indicate to me that the Big Ten is thinking about consolidating those rights, perhaps working through BTN to provide a single online package for all of the Big Ten's streaming, no matter who's broadcasting the game.
If I had to speculate, I suspect that the Big Ten will agree with ESPN/ABC to broadcast somewhere between 12 and 25 football games and a sizable package of basketball games. The Big Ten cannot afford to not have a contract with ESPN, especially in light of ESPN's relationship with the SEC. (Hockey fans can tell you that ESPN's coverage of the NHL on SportsCenter evaporated after the NHL sold their television rights to NBC.) CBS remains interested in the rights to basketball games, especially the Big Ten tournament while Turner Sports is also interested in adding college basketball broadcasts to complement their NCAA tournament coverage. My expectation is that ESPN and CBS &/or Turner will end up being the rights holder on the other half of the Big Ten's rights, but it'll be for less than Fox has offered.
It's also a little premature to figure out how the Fox broadcasts will be structured, but assuming that Fox will need to expand their broadcast teams to accommodate extra college football games, I suspect that Fox may look towards BTN for their announcer matchups. Could Kevin Kugler become the "Voice of the Big Ten" for Fox? Kugler already is the lead announcer for BTN, which is half owned by Fox, and would seem to be a natural to add to the broadcast network's roster.