The Big Ten’s next round of media rights contracts will not include a deal with ESPN.
Two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Big Ten was looking for a seven-year deal worth $380 million per year from ESPN, and the network declined.
The agreement would not have given ESPN the ability to have first choice of Big Ten games in a given week at any point.
The fallout could be good news for the Pac-12, which remains in negotiations with the network giant, as well as its other media partners on new media rights agreements. Without the Big Ten contract, ESPN theoretically has money to spend elsewhere and programming slots to fill.
For its part, the Pac-12 can provide evening kickoff slots, as late as 10:30 p.m. ET — inventory with little, if any competition at that hour. (As a point of reference, two of the four Utah kickoffs known at this point are 10:30 ET/8:30 MT kickoffs, Sept. 17 vs. San Diego State and Oct. 27 at Washington State.)
There is no official timetable for the Pac-12′s media rights situation to be settled, but commissioner George Kliavkoff said multiple times at last month’s conference media day that he is fine with letting the Big Ten set the market. The Pac-12, as Kliavkoff noted that day, is next to market after the Big Ten.
The Big Ten’s other television contracts that will go into effect in 2023 are still being finalized, but ESPN and its parent network ABC will no longer be conference partners, the people confirmed.
Both spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were not being made public.
ESPN has held television rights for the Big Ten since the mid-1980s. The network has shared Big Ten rights with Fox in the latest contract.
Fox, which owns 61% of the Big Ten Network, will remain the primary rights holder.
Sports Business Journal first reported that ESPN was out of the Big Ten negotiations that and CBS and NBC were each positioned to land a piece of the conference’s rights for upward of $300 million per year.