Big Ten Conference Nets Multi-Network TV Rights Deal

Penn State vs. Michigan State 2021
The Big Ten's new, reported $1 billion-per-year rights deal begins with the 2023 season and includes marquee programs like Penn State and Michigan State. (Image credit: Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

In a major college sports TV development, the Big Ten Conference has reached seven-year distribution deals with Fox, CBS and NBC for rights to the conference’s marquee football and basketball games.

The agreement, which goes into effect in 2023 and will pay the conference a reported $1 billion a year, is modeled after the NFL, which offers live games across multiple networks and platforms. As part of the deal, Fox, CBS and NBC will all air Big Ten football games on Saturdays beginning in the fall of 2023. 

The three networks will also split the Big Ten Football Championship game telecasts, with CBS airing the game in 2024 and 2028, Fox in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 and NBC in 2026, according to the Big Ten. Fox and ESPN currently hold Big Ten rights deals.

“The new rights agreements are an incredible achievement for our entire conference and a true testament of what can be accomplished with teamwork,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement.

The deal puts the Big Ten at the forefront of the college sports television landscape. The 14-team conference, which includes high-profile schools Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan, will add Pac-12 schools USC and UCLA to its lineup in 2024. 

TV sports analyst Lee Berke said the Big Ten deal is a huge deal for the conference and the TV sports category. “College football content stirs the TV sports drink and [the Big Ten] offers a lot of it,” he said. “With the additions of USC and UCLA, they will offer more of it in major markets with major audience appeal, particularly during the fourth quarter of the year. That’s a tremendous amount of content that every major network wants to go after, and you’re seeing that with the players involved in this deal."

As part of the agreement, Fox will continue to televise football and men’s basketball games, while the Fox Sports-owned Big Ten Network will continue to televise the conferences' football, basketball, and Olympic sports competition.

"We are proud to expand upon our long-standing partnership with the Big Ten Conference and further bolster our position as the premier rights holder of  the conference," Fox Sports CEO and executive producer Eric Shanks said. 

CBS will offer seven Big Ten football games in 2023, which will ramp up to 15 games beginning in 2024, including an annual Black Friday game in the afternoon. CBS will continue to air Big Ten regular-season and postseason men’s and women’s basketball games, including the Big Ten Men’s semifinals and final games, as well as, for the first time, the women’s basketball tournament final. Paramount Plus will stream the CBS Big Ten basketball and football games.

“The Big Ten has been a valued partner for more than three decades, as we're thrilled to expand that relationship by adding Big Ten football to our portfolio of marquee properties," CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. 

NBC and its streaming service Peacock will air 14 to 16 college football games as well as up to 47 regular season men’s college basketball games and 30 women’s basketball games. 

"We a re incredibly excited to be partnering with Kevin Warren and the Big Ten Conference on this robust package of sports," said NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua. ■

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.