The plan to bring two West Coast college football powerhouses into the Big Ten Conference has brought Apple back to the TV-rights bargaining table, according to reports.
Expanding the Midwest-rooted Big Ten from its current 14 schools to 16 would create a national footprint stretching from Rutgers in New Jersey and Maryland to California, making its TV rights and its Big Ten Network (BTN) more valuable.
This has been noticed by Apple, which after dropping out of the bidding for a package of Big Ten football games, has reengaged, according to Sports Business Journal.
Apple's Apple TV Plus streaming platform has developed an appetite for sports. It already has a Friday-night doubleheader package of Major League Baseball games and struck a deal with Major League Soccer. It is also reportedly among the leading contenders for the NFL Sunday Ticket package of out-of-market games.
The vote by Big Ten school presidents to add UCLA and USC lead to the conference delaying the deadline for completing its media-rights negotiations. Those rights are now expected to top $1 billion, a record for college football.
Fox Sports, which helped launch BTN, reportedly already has a deal to carry half of the Big Ten’s games. A second package appeared to be going to CBS, which is losing its top-rated Sunday SEC college football franchise to ESPN in 2004.
Amazon Prime Video, ESPN and NBC were reportedly competing for a third package before Apple’s re-entry into the bidding.
College football is rapidly changing into a two-conference sport, with the Big Ten competing with the SEC, which has added Texas and Oklahoma.
Notre Dame, which has long been independent with a contract with NBC paying the bills, may have to become part of one of the major conferences to maintain its status as a top-tier program. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.