Why ESPN reportedly won’t air Big Ten football or basketball games after latest media rights negotiations

After 40 years, it looks like ESPN will lose the Big Ten broadcast rights.

Big Ten basketball and soccer are in the final stages of negotiations for their media rights, and ESPN is reportedly not in the talks. Instead, NBC and CBS — synonymous with Notre Dame and the SEC, respectively — have emerged as frontrunners, along with Fox Sports, to host the newly formed superconference in 2023.

The report, which comes via Sports Business Journal, says the deal should eclipse $1 billion a year, making the Big Ten the first conference to hit that milestone.

The Big Ten, of course, recently added West Coast stars USC and UCLA to the group in principle, ostensibly their answer to Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC. Fox’s deal was expected to include the extension of its Saturday games at Big Noon.

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Why is ESPN losing broadcast rights to the Big Ten?

With the Big Ten’s media deal expiring, the conference had to renegotiate its broadcasting rights.

As a result, ESPN appears to be losing the rights to NBC or CBS, which generally broadcast Notre Dame Football and the SEC.

The trickle effect is interesting. While ESPN is no stranger to Big Ten games, it also means the conference will no longer air on ABC. Marquee Big Ten matchups have been almost synonymous with ABC for years, so it takes a bit of getting used to.

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Fox, meanwhile, will continue to carry Big Ten sports.

ESPN’s focus will shift to airing SEC games in slots formerly occupied by other conferences.

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How will CBS and NBC split games?

According to Sports Business Journal, Fox will continue to carry Big Noon Saturday games and show games on the Big Ten Network, but the big difference will be the afternoon table.

According to reports, CBS and NBC will split the second block of games.

CBS gets the gaming block at 3:30 p.m. ET, while NBC gets primetime slots.

The ripple effect of this is actually quite immense since CBS will no longer be broadcasting the SEC in its afternoon game.

ESPN has, of course, been moving toward SEC football for a long time, and in 2020 inked a 10-year media deal with the SEC that also had a basketball focus. Expect even more focus on the SEC on ESPN in the future.

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Where does ESPN go from here?

According to SBJ, ESPN will likely be aggressive in pursuing Big 12 and Pac-12 rights, but it will continue to broadcast the college football playoffs and NCAA championships.

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