It’s the one of the last major sports property that will be up for bid to the sports networks this decade. ESPN which currently holds the rights will now be up against CBS, Fox, NBC and Turner in bidding for the Big Ten.
As the current contract ends after the 2016-17 season, the Big Ten hopes that it can get a higher rights fee by getting the networks to bid against each other. The conventional wisdom is that ESPN and Fox will split the main contract. ESPN has been airing football and basketball games, Fox has the Big Ten Football Championship and runs the Big Ten Network, an agreement that runs into the 2030’s.
But as Sports Business Journal reports, both ESPN and Fox have been undergoing cost cuts due to cord cutting and increased sports rights fees so their bids may not be as high as the Big Ten would like.
CBS has a basketball contract that includes the semifinals and finals of the Big Ten Tournament and would like to retain that portion and possibly a smaller package of rights. The same goes for Turner Sports which would like to have some basketball games that would compliment its NCAA Tournament rights.
NBC which has been mostly shut out of college sports except for the CAA, Ivy League and Notre Dame plans to explore a potential bid, but it’s not known how serious it will be.
The Big Ten bidding will be watched closely and with a conference footprint that goes from the Midwest all the way to the East Coast, the league expects that it will see increased rights and a financial windfall that will carry it well into the next decade and possibly beyond.