Big Ten Media Rights announcement. A Big Ten Media Rights announcement.

It’s been obvious that there are going to be more late-night kickoffs of Big Ten games beginning in 2024 with the additions of USC and UCLA, and that expanded further with the conference now also set to add Oregon and Washington that year. Where exactly those games would wind up has been a bit of a question, though, and we now seem to have at least a partial answer, with Scott Dochterman of The Athletic noting at the end of a Big Ten TV Guide post Wednesday that they look headed to some combination of Fox, FS1, and BTN.

With Fox providing the funding for the Big Ten to add Washington and Oregon next year, the Fox family of networks will air more games in non-traditional windows. That means more Friday night games and late-night Saturday kickoffs. Those games will appear on either Fox, FS1 or BTN but it’s unclear where those selections will fall in the draft process.

Of course, those lines from Dochterman match up with some of the discussion to date. After Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith’s comments that “Fox brought new money to the table for Oregon and Washington,” it seemed likely they would get most of that new inventory. And at least some late-night kickoffs would be seemingly be a smart way to handle that inventory from the business side (despite repeated comments from coaches bashing them, including then-Washington coach Chris Petersen), especially for Fox; given their lack of an over-the-top paid streaming platform and the limited distribution for FS2, they’re more restricted by linear channel space than ESPN, sometimes even having to use Fox Business.

But there was still a lot of discussion about what could happen here, including possibly even Fox sublicensing a package of late games to ESPN or another suitor (maybe even one-time Pac-12 suitor Apple). Of course, there are challenges to all that; Fox and ESPN are really becoming larger and larger rivals on the CFB rights side, and are believed by many to be playing key roles in realignment, so neither of them might have been eager to do a deal with the other. And there are other ways for ESPN to get some late-night inventory, from the additions of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah to the Big 12 (where ESPN and Fox split rights) to the possibility of Cal and Stanford joining the ACC (where ESPN controls all rights through 2036) to whatever happens with Washington State and Oregon State.

So this resolution, if it is actually the final one, probably makes sense for most involved. (Except perhaps the coaches and fans who object to late-night kickoffs, but realignment continues to show they are not in the driver’s seat: TV money is). And it’s notable to see that, for now at least, the plans for more Friday night and late-night Saturday Big Ten games in 2024 and beyond appear to be about Fox, FS1, and BTN (where Fox holds a 61 percent stake). Get that #BigTenAfterDark hashtag ready.

[The Athletic]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.