Is the Big Ten gone from ESPN forever? Given some of the reactions after the conference announced its new media rights deals with CBS, Fox, and NBC, you wouldn’t necessarily be faulted for thinking that way.
However, they’re only seven-year deals, and ESPN is welcome to come back to the table and try to claw back a chunk of the package.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said as much on Wednesday at the SBJ Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.
“I never say we’re not doing a deal with ESPN or anyone else,” Warren said during a one-on-one interview. “Just maybe we haven’t done one up till today. I’m a great believer that life is long and I will continue to have communications with … and great respect for them.”
Well…yeah, of course. ESPN didn’t lose the Big Ten due to a lack of interest, they lost due to CBS, Fox, and NBC putting better offers on the table and not wanting to pay $380 million per year for 13 games.
And hey, there’s always the possibility of the Big Ten expanding so another company like ESPN can acquire a fourth package of games.
Who knows what the media landscape will look like in 2030, when the Big Ten’s new rights deals expire? Seven years ago, there was no ESPN+ and no Peacock (though Paramount+ did exist under its previous CBS All Access branding). The cable bundle was still strong, with the decline in cable households just beginning. Seven years from now, DTC streaming and cable will likely look vastly different, opening the door for not just ESPN, but various other media companies interested in the Big Ten.