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tBBC Big Ten Completes New Media Rights Deal


Big Ten Completes New Media Rights Deal
via our good friends at Buckeye Battle Cry
Visit their fantastic blog and read the full article (and so much more) here


On Monday rumors leaked that the Big Ten and ESPN had reached a deal for the second half of the conference’s new media rights package, wrapping up negotiations regarding who will broadcast Big Ten games from 2017-2023. The Big Ten has not made an official announcement yet but that is expected to come later this summer.

Some of the new media rights deal had been known for a while as it leaked back in April that the first half of the Big Ten media rights deal had gone to Fox Sports. That deal would give Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 approximately 25 football and 50 men’s basketball games per season starting in 2017 as well as the Big Ten football championship game in a deal worth up to $250 million per year.

This week’s leak has ESPN paying approximately $190 million per year for the other half of the media right’s package. While no official details have come out as to what that package would include, it is probably safe to assume that it includes football, men’s basketball, and some women’s basketball games. CBS will also pay approximately $10 million per year for select men’s basketball games including the semifinals and finals of the Big Ten tournament. The Big Ten Network will continue to broadcast about the same number of games and sports as the currently due, the BTN’s media rights package runs to the 2031-2032 season.

The total rumored value of the deal is $2.64 billion dollars which averages $440 million per year over the six years of the contract. This represents an approximately 280% increase over the current media rights deal which has ESPN paying $150 million for its broadcast rights this season and CBS paying $6 million. This is a huge windfall for the conference and the individual athletic departments and much credit has to be given to Commissioner Jim Delany and the other people involved in the negotiation process. The additional money generated from this deal will be especially useful for the less successful football schools in the conference who have struggled recently in terms of attendance and money generated from attendance.

The new deal will see a major shakeup in how we watch Big Ten football and basketball. The biggest difference is that this season will likely be the last one where we will see the Ohio State-Michigan game in its traditional home on ABC. Under the terms of the new deal, Fox and ESPN will pick which games they want to show each week through a two-step process. In the first step, each channel will pick which weeks they will have first pick of games with Fox getting the first pick of weeks. It is likely that Fox’s first pick will be the last week of the season and then they will use the first pick of games that week to select the OSU-Michigan game. ESPN will then get the next selection of weeks with priority and will likely select the week that has OSU-Michigan State or Michigan State-Michigan in order to then take one of those games. The process will then continue through the rest of the season.

In addition to the increased payout to each school from the new deal, there are several other interesting takeaways from this agreement. The first is that by adding Fox, the Big Ten will increase the number of channels that will be showing their games. This is a great thing, not only putting conference games in more places for more places to see, it also gives another group of networks a bigger financial stake in the conference and its well-being. While Fox’s partnership in BTN gave them a financial stake in the conference, increasing that stake will only benefit the Big Ten. ESPN has demonstrated over the years that they will use their studio programming to promote sports and leagues that they have a stake in while de-emphasizing sports that they do not broadcast; to see this do not just look at their regular fluffing of the SEC on Sportscenter and other studio shows but also things like the NHL getting less time and mentions on those same shows. By keeping a relationship with ESPN, the Big Ten should continue to get at least a bit of promotion and fluffing from ESPN’s studio shows (yes, the Big Ten does get some even if it isn’t as much as the SEC gets). Expect to see a rise in similar treatment at the hands of Fox Sports due to the new television deal as well.

The other interesting aspect of this deal is that it at least somewhat puts to rest concerns that ESPN was no longer willing to pay top dollar for broadcast rights. The last year has seen ESPN revenues fall and the network has responded by instituting cost cutting measures and layoffs that have seen a number of big names leave the network for other sports networks. When ESPN lost the bidding for the first half of the Big Ten’s media rights package, concerns grew that the network’s cost cutting was going to extend to broadcast rights deals which could spell major problems for the future of the network; these concerns were heightened due to rumors that ESPN had submitted a low ball offer.

ESPN landing the second half of the Big Ten media rights shows that they are still willing to pay top dollar for valuable broadcast rights. It also shows that perhaps the network is becoming smarter in how it does so. ESPN will pay approximately $60 million less per season than Fox with the biggest difference being that Fox gets the Big Ten football championship game. Yes, Fox will probably get first choice of Big Ten men’s basketball after CBS and may get the early rounds of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament but football broadcasts are what really draw eyes and advertising money. Fox getting first pick of their priority weeks for football also has some value but not as much as it used to. I know I will get some flak for this but while the annual Ohio State-Michigan rivalry game will still always be special, it is no longer the dominant game in terms of television ratings thanks to Michigan’s recent struggles and the rise of Michigan State; yes, Michigan is likely to improve with Harbaugh at the helm but Michigan State has shown they aren’t going anywhere.

Last season’s Ohio State-Michigan game had 10.83 million viewers while OSU-MSU had 11.05 million, MSU-Michigan had 7.40 million, and Oregon-MSU had 7.90 million viewers. In 2014 OSU-Michigan had 8.23 million viewers while OSU-MSU had 6.83 million. This makes the difference between having the first and second pick in terms of priority weeks much less important. In the end, ESPN actually likely got the better deal than Fox did.

There are still a lot of things that are unknown about the new Big Ten media rights deals and we probably will not get much more information until the Big Ten makes an official announcement. The biggest remaining questions in my mind are: 1. How will the networks choose men’s basketball games and who will broadcast the early rounds of the Big Ten men’s tournament? 2.

Will we see increased coverage of non-revenue sports, especially on networks other than BTN?

The post Big Ten Completes New Media Rights Deal appeared first on The Buckeye Battle Cry: Ohio State News and Commentary.

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