Thursday December 7, 2023

NBC Could Make Big Ten ‘The NFL Of College Football Conferences’

  • NBC would televise prime time Big Ten/NFL games on Saturday/Sunday nights.
  • Big Ten could follow the successful broadcast TV model of the NFL.
Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports
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NBC Sports doesn’t have the revenue of Amazon. But it has a plan to turn the Big Ten into “the NFL of college football conferences.”

That’s the latest word from the high-stakes Big Ten media rights negotiations. The conference is expected to command at least $1.25 billion annually for its next media rights deal from bidders that include NBC, Amazon, ESPN/ABC, and CBS Sports. The winner will air games alongside Fox Sports, the conference’s primary TV partner and an operating partner in the Big Ten Network.

NBC has already pushed the idea of combining Big Ten telecasts with its existing Notre Dame coverage as a “perfect one-two punch.” As negotiations near the finish line, NBC is proposing a strategy that calls for back-to-back Big Ten and NFL games in prime time TV on Saturday and Sunday nights, said sources.

Imagine a fall football weekend that would include triple-header coverage of Big Ten games on Fox, CBS, and NBC from early Saturday afternoon to Saturday night. Followed the next evening by NBC’s “Sunday Night Football:” the most-watched show in prime time for a record 11 years in a row.

Such a scenario could vault the Big Ten past the rival Southeastern Conference as the premiere college football draw on sports TV — and make the conference one of the few sports entities beside the $11 billion NFL to be featured across American broadcast networks, with games potentially airing on NBC, Fox, CBS, and ABC.

“The Big Ten would have exposure in every TV home,” said one source. “It would also be a smart idea to follow the model of the most successful sports league in America.” 

The Big Ten’s current media rights deals expire after the 2023 season. In a move that could spell doom for the Pac-12 Conference, USC and UCLA are poised to jump to the Big Ten on Aug 2, 2024.

With the addition of Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest TV market, the Big Ten could triple its current payout of $440 million a year. The timing could not be worse, meanwhile, for the Pac-12, which is poised to start negotiations once the Big Ten’s negotiations wrap, commissioner George Kliavkoff told reporters at Pac-12 media days.

NBC, ESPN and Amazon declined to comment on negotiations. The Big Ten did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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