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ESPN Out as Big Ten Eyes $1 Billion in TV Deals

Ohio State vs. Michigan game 2021
The Big Ten's lucrative new TV deal would count in CBS and NBC while leaving ESPN on the sidelines. (Image credit: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

The Big Ten is reportedly close to finalizing TV rights deals that will bring it $1 billion a year, and ESPN is out of the huddle after 40 years on the roster.

A source familiar with the situation said that ESPN has informed the conference that it is out of the bidding. The Big Ten is seeking $380 million a year for a secondary package of games, but ESPN couldn't justify the price tag because it is getting SEC football for Saturday afternoons (the top-rated package CBS has had for years) and has Pac-10 and Big 12 games for primetime. 

Fox has agreed to take the top package of Big Ten college football games, which will appear on Fox noon on Saturday and on cable channels FS1 and BTN, or the Big Ten Network. Fox owns a majority stake in BTN.

According to Sports Business Journal, CBS and NBC are close to sharing the secondary games package starting in 2024. CBS would get games at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturdays —replacing the SEC games moving to ESPN — and NBC would have primetime games, with Peacock carrying some of the contests.

ESPN has been carrying Big Ten games since 1982. ABC, which, like ESPN, is owned by The Walt Disney Co., started airing games from the Big Ten in 1966.

Without the Big Ten, Sports Business Journal said that ESPN would turn its focus to the Big 12 and Pac 12. It will also work on renewing games for the College Football Playoffs and championship game. ■

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.