When the new Big East emerged in 2013 after the breakaway of the conference’s remaining football schools to form what would become the American Athletic Conference, it signed a 12-year primary rights deal with Fox Sports that March. That deal included over 100 men’s basketball games for Fox’s channels each year, plus exclusive Big East Tournament rights and rights to other sports, but it also mentioned that some regular season games would be sublicensed to another network. ESPN was widely predicted at the time, but it was actually CBS that wound up with that deal, signing on that September to show 20 Big East games that year (with two on broadcast CBS and the rest on CBSSN) and then “up to 30 games annually” from 2014-15 to 2018-19.
That deal’s now run its course, but CBS announced Thursday they’ve signed a new deal through 2024-25 (the end of Fox’s deal) for a similar sublicensing deal.
The new deal will have CBS Sports picking up 20 regular-season games each year, with at least two for each of the 10 schools. Up to four games annually will air on CBS’ broadcast network, with the remainder on CBS Sports Network. In the CBS release, officials from the network and the conference emphasized the continuation of their long-running partnership (which dates back to the old Big East):
“CBS Sports has partnered with the Big East for more than 35 years and we are thrilled to be able to continue to showcase the conference across our platforms for years to come,” said Dan Weinberg, Executive Vice President, Programming, CBS Sports. “The depth of the conference has never been stronger and we are excited to continue our long-standing relationship with the Big East in delivering high-quality basketball to our viewers.”
“We’re very excited that the long-standing national television coverage Big East basketball has enjoyed on CBS Sports will be continuing for the next six years,” said Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman. “We’re grateful for the outstanding support CBS provides annually to the college game and look forward to partnering to bring compelling broadcasts to our fans around the country.”
This isn’t going to lead to any dramatic changes in Big East television coverage, as CBS’ new sublicensing package looks a lot like their old one. For reference, last season saw CBS carry 18 Big East league contests (two on broadcast and 16 on CBSSN), plus a non-league contest (Butler-Indiana) on broadcast and a non-league game (Providence-Wichita State) on CBSSN. So this should be about the same in each year of the new deal. (And this is still the minor part of the Big East’s television presence; last year saw them with over 100 Big East games on Fox’s networks, including 17 to 18 on Fox’s broadcast network and including the other 90 regular-season games.)
But it is notable to see a new sublicensing deal between the same networks here, as that wasn’t guaranteed. After the expiration of their CBS deal, Fox could have sublicensed this package elsewhere, including ESPN. And it’s worth keeping in mind that there are more digital players involved in broadcasting college sports now than there were in 2013, from ESPN+ to Stadium to FloSports, so there might have been more options this time around. It’s also worth remembering that since that last deal, the Big East has won two national men’s basketball titles (Villanova in 2016 and 2018); their previous title there was Villanova in 1985 (and Georgetown the previous year), and the highest recent previous finish of a now-Big East school was Butler making back-to-back title game appearances in 2010 and 2011. So there’s an argument that Big East basketball looks a bit more prominent now than it did when the 2013 sublicensing deal was signed.
In the end, though, everyone involved here seems to have been fine with a new deal that looks a lot like the old deal, at least from a games broadcast standpoint (we don’t know the financial details involved and if/how they’ve changed). The Big East maintains its current level of television exposure for the sublicensed package, with some of it accessible to a very wide audience (the CBS broadcast games) and some available to those who have CBSSN. Meanwhile, CBS keeps some of its regular-season college basketball programming, and keeps some content for CBSSN. And matching the length of the sublicensing deal to Fox’s primary rights deal means there won’t be any uncertainty on where to find Big East games until all the rights come up after 2024-25.