Fox to make major run at Big Ten football rights

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

According to a report from the Iowa Gazette, Fox is expected to put on the full court press for the Big Ten's next round of TV rights.

With the SEC's new ESPN owned SEC Network set to launch next year and catapult that league towards the top of the television rights revenue leaders, Jim Delany and the Big Ten have already been strategizing ways to regain top billing amongst media rights money earners. According to Scott Dochterman of the Iowa Gazette, Fox could play a big role in potentially making that happen.

Fox, which will air the Big Ten Championship game this year on their newly minted Fox Sports 1 network this December, is expected to bid soon for the 2017 and beyond first-tier rights presently owned by ESPN/ABC. The current rights package came at a cost of over a billion dollars for the Disney family of networks. Fox also presently owns 51% of the Big Ten Network and is heavily involved in its day-to-day operations.

Though 2014 new Big Ten additions Maryland and Rutgers don't add a ton of revenue value with their fan bases from a TV viewing perspective in and of themselves, they do add a larger geographic footprint of Big Ten alumni in some of the nation's most populous areas who'll certainly want to watch their teams play when they take on the Terps or Scarlet Knights each fall.

In addition to the Fox's flagship station, per the Gazette's report, the deal would incorporate Fox Sports 1, the Fox regional networks (North [Minnesota], Midwest [St. Louis], Wisconsin, Ohio, Detroit and Kansas City. amongst them). It could also involve Fox Sports 2, which was launched concurrently with the main cable entity with little fanfare August 17th.

Though putting extra potential revenue back into the Big Ten members institutions certainly isn't a bad thing, the biggest downside to this deal on paper as of right now is the absence of a strong streaming offering from Fox Sports' side. Fox's late Fox Soccer Channel (now the primarily comedy entertainment aimed channel, FXX) had a wealth of digital content available for those that paid an additional monthly fee, but didn't offer as comprehensive a number of options as ESPN's WatchESPN app. Fox Sports is expected to launch Fox Sports Go for FS1 and FS2 content later this fall, but it's unlikely to have the wealth of viewing options ESPN offers (gaming consoles, etc.)

What are your thoughts on Fox potentially entering the fray to air more Big Ten content? Would the league be better served keeping its interests diversified, or should it simply look to maximize revenues?

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