This week saw a lot of developments with the Big Ten’s forthcoming media deals (beginning with the 2023-24 season), from the league finalizing deals with Fox, CBS, and NBC (which have since gained more confirmation, although not official announcements yet) and ESPN exiting negotiations. But there have still been a lot of questions about what’s ahead. According to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated, though, one of those questions has been answered; Dellenger wrote in a piece published Thursday that the 2023-24 season will see CBS continue to show SEC games (under their last year of that existing contract before it goes to ESPN beginning in 2024-25) at their traditional time of 3:30 p.m. Eastern (as seen above in a promo for last year’s Iron Bowl), in addition to their new Big Ten package.
With the new Big Ten deal starting in 2023, CBS will have one year in which it owns the rights of the Big Ten’s second-tier game as well as the top SEC game—an interesting crossover quandary. The SEC’s contract with CBS requires its game to be exclusively aired by the network at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The Big Ten’s deal will be arranged in a way to allow CBS to fulfill its SEC duties in the first year of the contract, a source tells SI, though details were not provided.
As Dellenger’s piece notes elsewhere, the overall media rights realignment picture doesn’t appear to have worked out great for CBS. They backed out of negotiations on extending their current SEC game-of-the-week package back in December 2019. ESPN eventually won those rights (in addition to the SEC content they already had) for $300 million a year in a move announced in December 2020. That was much more than the around $55 million a year CBS was paying (although the ESPN package has some further benefits beyond what CBS had, including exclusive streaming games for ESPN+), but it looks like a deal compared to the reported $350 million a year CBS will now be paying for the Big Ten’s second-best package (behind Fox’s). However, it is certainly a benefit for them to have the Big Ten work with them so they can still fulfill their SEC commitments in 2023; that SEC package is very valuable, and it will help CBS’ numbers to not have to pass it on elsewhere, even if it poses some juggling challenges with their new Big Ten content.
It makes sense for the Big Ten to be flexible here, too. This is only for one year, and while it means their ideal Fox (noon)/CBS (afternoon)/NBC (night) setup may not be fully in place in year one of this deal, they’ll still be getting CBS checks, CBS promotion, and CBS games (albeit not in that 3:30 p.m. ET slot). Allowing the network some flexibility to keep their SEC package for its last year will keep CBS happier (and that might even have been part of driving this deal). If this plays out as reported, it will lead to a slightly weird 2023 season for CBS, but that’s better for them than having to get rid of their lucrative SEC package a year early.