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Big Ten announces new seven-year media rights deal worth over $7 billion

CBS and NBC join on as new partners, along with FOX, while ESPN exits stage right.

2022 Big Ten Conference Football Media Days Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Big Ten Conference has been in negotiations for its new media rights deal with plenty of rumors swirling over an ever-increasing price tag since the news broke of UCLA and USC joining the conference in 2024.

The new media rights agreements with various broadcast television networks have officially been announced as of Thursday morning, with the league revealing a new seven-year deal through the 2029-2030 academic year that will total over $7 billion during the lifespan of the contract.

It is the largest media rights contract in college sports history, dwarfing the current contract ESPN signed in 2020 with the SEC that begins in 2024 and is worth $3 billion over its 10-year term (approximately $300 million per year). That deal was signed before Texas and Oklahoma announced they would join the league in 2025, however. The new Big Ten media rights deal will also mean the league will be back in the market ahead of the SEC’s new exclusive contract with ESPN, which expires in 2034.

FOX remains the primary rights holder among the media companies, but CBS and NBC now join in, while ESPN exited negotiations last week, ending a 40-year relationship. The new agreements include FOX/FS1, CBS, NBC and the Big Ten Network, while NBCUniversal’s Peacock will begin having select games on its streaming-only platform as well.

CBS and NBC will be paying around $350 million per year for the Big Ten packages, though the deal is backloaded as CBS will split its Big Ten coverage in 2023 with the SEC and will increase its coverage of the Big Ten once UCLA and USC join the conference, increasing what it pays the Big Ten after that date for its content.

FOX continues to reign supreme with its Big Ten content, as it remains in the noon (Eastern Time) time slot for premier games each week, and has increased the number of top games it holds the rights for each season.

What the new deal means more broadly, however, is that for the first time at the college level, a FOX noon game will be followed by another national network in CBS at 3:30 p.m. ET, and then followed by NBC in primetime. This ensures a Big Ten game will be on a major network from noon until approximately 11 p.m. ET every Saturday, with each network promoting content on the others in an industry first.

Not only will FOX, CBS and NBC split Big Ten football inventory across the entire day, the networks also reportedly have a new lottery system that will allow each to have first pick any given week of which game they want to broadcast.

Additionally, the Big Ten Championship game will be split among the networks. FOX will broadcast the game in odd years (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029), CBS will broadcast it in 2024 and 2028, and NBC will do so in 2026.

As for the breakdown of regular season football content, FOX/FS1 will cover the most outside of the Big Ten Network. According to The Athletic, in 2023, the network will carry up to 27 regular-season games before upping that to as many as 32 games per year in 2024 and beyond. The Big Ten Network will broadcast up to 41 games in 2023 and 50 games thereafter.

Next year, NBC will broadcast 16 regular season games and then 15 from 2024 onward, per The Athletic. The network will also offer all games simultaneously on its Peacock network, and has exclusive rights to a Black Friday game it intends to broadcast in primetime. Currently Nebraska is the only Big Ten program to insist on a Black Friday game, a tradition it started back in the Big 8 in the early 1990s and has played against Iowa since joining the Big Ten.

In addition to NBC’s broadcast package, Peacock will exclusively stream four conference football games per year in addition to four non-conference games involving Big Ten teams.

As for CBS, as mentioned above it still has a contract with the SEC for 2023. As a result, it will only broadcast seven games that season (again, per The Athletic) before increasing to as many as 15 in 2024, including an afternoon Black Friday game. All games will be simultaneously available on its streaming platform Paramount+.

Another interesting component of the new media package is that all three networks offer over-the-air programming. So anyone still possessing a TV antenna and the proper equipment can watch games via the old school method. Additionally, the media partners will likely be advertising heavily for the upcoming Big Ten Saturday slates each Sunday during their respective NFL coverage.

“The Big Ten Conference media rights agreements are more than just dollars and deals. They are a mechanism to provide stability and maximum exposure for our student-athletes, member institutions and partners during these uncertain times in collegiate athletics,” Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren said. “We are very grateful to our world-class media partners for recognizing the strength of the Big Ten Conference brand and providing the incredible resources we need for our student-athletes to compete at the very highest levels, and to achieve their academic and athletics goals.”

The new media rights deal has big implications for basketball coverage as well. The Big Ten Network will carry at least 126 men’s games per year, along with four Thursday games and four quarterfinals games in the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament. FOX/FS1 will carry at least 45 regular-season men’s basketball games per year as well.

CBS remains the network that will carry the Big Ten Tournament semifinals and the championship game. The championship game is followed by the CBS Selection Sunday show each year. For the first time, the women’s basketball tournament final will also be carried by CBS beginning in 2023. As for the regular season, CBS will broadcast 11 regular-season men’s basketball games in 2023 and up to 15 games (13 of which will be conference games) from 2024 onward.

Fans will need to get ready for streaming packages as well for basketball season. Peacock will have 32 regular-season men’s basketball games (20 conference games) in 2023-2024 and 47 games (32 conference games) thereafter each season. In addition, the Big Ten Tournament’s opening night doubleheader on Wednesday will be on the streaming platform, along with 30 regular-season women’s basketball games (20 conference games) per year starting in 2023-2024.