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NBC Has Big Plans For Big Ten Football as Media Rights Bidding Continues

David Satin

The pursuit of the remaining Big Ten football media rights may be getting close to crossing the goal line.

Currently the Big Ten broadcast rights are split between Fox and ESPN, but that deal is expiring at the end of the upcoming season, and the conference is working on finalizing future plans as the season quickly approaches. Fox has already been guaranteed half of the rights in its next deal, including first choice of games and the streaming rights to the Big Ten Network, of which it owns 61%.

But the additions of USC and UCLA to the conference last month have been a game-changer in the negotiations for Big Ten media rights. Those schools could add 10-25% in overall value to those deals, whose price tag could top $1.2 billion. Despite Disney, CBS, Amazon, and Apple reportedly interested in the other half of the Big Ten rights, a new front-runner has reportedly emerged as NBC is “near the finish line” in negotiations according to Front Office Sports.

NBC sees the Big Ten as “the NFL of college football conferences,” and sees the idea of combining Big Ten coverage with its already existing Notre Dame content as “the perfect one-two punch” according to a source.

Big Ten media rights would be a big win for NBC; they’ve had fierce competition from linear providers like ABC and CBS. Amazon has also been pursuing the rights, looking to expand its live sports offerings. After recently announcing their edition of “Thursday Night Football” would feature multiple simultaneous broadcasts, it’s clear that Amazon sees college and pro football as big potential draws.

NBC has also seen fierce competition from Apple, who reengaged with the Big Ten in July after seemingly being out of the running. However, when the Los Angeles-based schools joined the conference, the tech giant became even more interested than it had previously been. On the pro football side, Apple has been in hot pursuit of the NFL Sunday Ticket, and like Amazon sees huge potential in streaming live football games.

There are already big plans in place at NBC should their negotiations for Big Ten rights conclude successfully. They are pitching triple-header coverage of games with Fox and CBS, as well as a nationally broadcast Big Ten game on NBC every Saturday night. That would give NBC back-to-back nights of national football. “Sunday Night Football” is already the most-watched primetime show — and has been for the last 11 years — and the addition of the Big Ten rights could be a crowning achievement for NBC.

Big Ten Network

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