We've known for a while that the Big Ten was going to get paid when it came time to negotiate their next TV deal. Now, we're starting to get an idea for just how much they're going to be paid. Yesterday afternoon, it was reported that the Big Ten is nearing an agreement to sell *half* of their rights to Fox for as much as $250M a year. That would still leave the Big Ten with the ability to sell the other half of their rights to say, ESPN, or Turner, or NBC, and pay out $40M, or even more, to each individual school, just from TV.
That is a lot of money. And one conference potentially getting that much coin has implications beyond just the Big Ten. Here's a look and who wins, and who may lose, from this huge deal.
The Big Ten
This goes without saying, of course, but landing this much for just half of the rights (for comparison sake, $250M is about what the Pac-12 will get in 2019 for all of their TV rights) is a huge win for Big Ten athletic departments, especially in the fact of concerns that cable-cutting would limit the growth of future TV revenues. The other major conferences won't get a chance to renegotiate their deals until later in the 2020s, so if the market doesn't turn for the worse, the Big Ten gets the last big TV payday in the sport. Some projections have Big Ten schools getting payouts of nearly $60 million
This is especially huge news for the smaller athletic departments in the conference. Newcomers like Rutgers and Maryland were desperately depending on a sharp increase in TV money to help shore up their own balance sheets, and pay for needed capital programs to get their facilities up to B1G quality. It's huge for the Purdues and Indianas of the world, who can perhaps use the money to shore up recruiting infrastructure. And of course, the extra money is nice for Ohio State and all, but it's not like the Buckeyes are short of the cash they need to be successful right now.
With this kind of windfall, geography be damned, Big Ten programs with lagging athletic departments are running out of excuses. Yes, your weather might be bad. You know what can keep you warm during those Madison winters? The insulation that comes from millions and millions of TV dollars.
The Big East
The Big East, home of national champion Villanova, has their basketball games on Fox Sports 1. They've been able to boast high quality competition, strong tradition -- but the TV ratings for their games have been terrible. With more Big Ten basketball games moving to FS1, you'll see an increased demand for the channel from any stragglers who don't have it in their package, and a general improved profile for the channel in general. It's possible a few DePaul games might get moved to Fox Sports 2 if they get bumped by other Big Ten basketball games, but in general, increased visibility for the main channel for your games is a good thing for the league.
The Big 12
If you were already predisposed to worry about the widening gap between the Big Ten/SEC and other Power 5 conferences, like say, the Big 12 is, then the Big Ten getting another, perhaps larger than expected, stack of cash isn't great. But it isn't just about the Big Ten getting more money in a vacuum. Big Ten games getting moved to FS1 could directly hurt the Big 12.
Big 12 games are already on FS1, but the league apparently has a low number of guaranteed games on the platform. (a minimum of six games a year). So if that Texas Tech/Kansas State game was going to be slotted to FS1, there's a chance it's getting bumped to FS2 or FSN to make room for, I dunno, Michigan State/Illinois, even if that's going to be a worse game. The massive fanbases around Big Ten programs make those games attractive TV properties, so if you are a fan used having regular games on FS1, you may want to make sure you get the other Fox channels in your package.
Plus, if you were worried about Oklahoma maybe deciding that trying to keep this whole Big 12 thing together isn't worth it, well, seeing all these Big Ten dollar signs probably isn't helping.
Until the next big round of conference TV deals comes open in the mid 2020s, BYU's deal with ESPN might be the last semi-large TV deal left to be renegotiated. BYU's deal ends in either 2018 or 2019 (ESPN holds an option year), and has been integral to their survival as an independent. So it's probably not a great sign to hear that ESPN "presented a non-competitive bid several weeks ago, as the company continues to look for areas to save costs", per the SBJ. If ESPN wasn't willing to open their wallet for one of the most valuable properties in college athletics, are they going to be willing to open their wallet to keep BYU? BYU's deal is obviously much, much smaller (estimations have it as between $6-$8M a year), and even if ESPN isn't willing to go higher, it doesn't mean that Fox, or NBC, or somebody else wouldn't be. But if you are a fan of a program who needs to have a strong relationship with ESPN, further confirmation that they're less willing to write big checks isn't a promising sign.
If you have really strong opinions about Fox's broadcast philosophy or talent, or have a really narrow cable package, you may not love this deal. Maybe Clay Travis won't be a TV personality for the entire length of this contract, but he'll probably be in and around Fox Sports' overall coverage and maybe you don't love that.
It's entirely possible that over the course of this contract that at least one Ohio State basketball game will be banished to some far-flung FS2/FSN channel that you don't have yet, or can't find, and that will cause frustration.
Though there's a good amount of time between now and then, Fox Sports Go, the networks' answer to WatchESPN, is extremely sub-standard. Broadcasts routinely cut off mid-game in favor of other contests without rhyme or reason and sometimes the streams don't even return. The dependability and quality on mobile devices regularly seem less reliable than similar offerings. There's also no AppleTV channel, which even Yahoo! offered for their one off NFL broadcast and NBC Sports has for Premier League soccer.
Plus if your cable provider doesn't carry FS2, you can't watch it on Fox Sports Go either.
Maybe they can fix some of those issues between now and the first Big Ten game, but right now, the product just isn't as good as their competitors.
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There's still a lot to be figured out for this deal. Who will buy the other half of the Big Ten rights? Can the Big Ten afford to completely cut away ESPN and sell it to say, Turner? What will happen to the Big Ten's digital rights? What will the final numbers be? Is any of this even close to sustainable?
We'll find out more over the offseason. But for now, take comfort in knowing that any construction projects you were hoping your school would start suddenly got a little easier to pay for. Keep that in mind while you try to figure out if you get FS2 on your cable package.