AP sources: ESPN out of Big Ten TV rights negotiations

As the Big Ten prepares to become a 16-team coast-to-coast superconference with the addition of USC and UCLA in 2024, it is ending a 40-year relationship with ESPN and is moving towards partnerships with two new networks.

Two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Big Ten is seeking a seven-year deal worth $380 million a year to broadcast its football and basketball games from ESPN, and the network refused.

Both spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were not made public.

The deal would not have given ESPN the first pick of Big Ten football games in any given week at any time and would have reduced the number of Big Ten games the network could air from the current 27 to about half of that number, one of the people familiar with the talks said.

ESPN has held the television rights for Big Ten football since 1982. The network shares Big Ten football and basketball rights with Fox under the current contract, which expires in 2023.

Fox, which owns 61% of the Big Ten Network, will remain the conference’s primary rights holder, with CBS and NBC set to join as partners, one of the people told the AP.

CBS’ long-term deal with the Southeastern Conference is set to expire after the 2023 season. The deal gave CBS the rights to the SEC Football Game of the Week, usually scheduled in the 3:30 p.m. Eastern time, fall Saturdays.

ESPN got this SEC package to go along with the rights it already had from the central conference for $300 million a year. From 2024, ESPN will be the exclusive network of the SEC.

It looks like CBS will be replacing SEC football with the Big Ten on Saturday afternoons, though the network likely won’t have the exclusive first pick of games like it did with the SEC.

The Big Ten said in a statement Tuesday that its new television contracts are still being finalized.

“The conference continues to have productive meetings with linear and direct-to-consumer media partners,” the conference said.

An announcement on a new set of deals that is expected to be worth more than $1 billion a year for the Big Ten is expected soon.

The Sports Business Journal first reported that ESPN was out of Big Ten negotiations and that CBS and NBC were each able to secure a share of conference rights for more than $300 million a year.

In June, the Big Ten announced its expansion westward with the addition of the two Pac-12 flagship schools based in Los Angeles: Southern California and UCLA.

The move came just under a year after it was revealed that Texas and Oklahoma would leave the Big 12 and join the SEC in 2025, when the Big 12’s television contract expires.

The Pac-12 is next to the negotiating table among the Power Five conferences, with deals set to expire after the 2023-24 season. The current Big 12 offers expire after the 2024-25 academic year.

While no conference is expected to come close to landing deals that rival the Big Ten and the SEC in value, not having the Big Ten creates more space for ESPN to fill on its family of networks.


More AP college sports: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25


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