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FOX Sports reportedly makes big push for Big Ten media rights share

The relationship between the Big Ten and FOX is about to get much stronger. According to Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand, FOX and the Big Ten have agreed to basic terms on a significant share of the Big Ten’s media rights package that would net $250 million per year for six years.

Per Ourand’s report, the deal with FOX would send 25 Big Ten football games to FOX, which would likely be used to add programming on FOX Sports 1 in addition to some air time on FOX to go with the network’s existing deals with the Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA. It should be noted Conference USA could end up losing a contract with FOX, and there is no doubt the Big Ten, Big 12 and/or Pac-12 would get the nod over Conference USA if FOX Sports only carried three conferences instead of four. FOX would also get 50 basketball games, and the deal would start in the fall of 2017. The Big Ten would still have half of its media rights to sell off, which would more than likely remain in the hands of ESPN, although CBS, NBC and Turner all are believed to still be in the game to some extent.

When I discussed the Big Ten media rights negotiations last June, it was my belief FOX was going to make a serious push to acquire Big Ten media rights to go with its share of the Big Ten Network and the Big Ten football championship game. It makes too much sense from FOX’s point of view. FS1 has done well in acquiring media rights to add live programming to help FS1 get off the ground, but it still has a long way to go to challenging ESPN. Adding more college football helps, and adding the Big Ten is a big boost for the network’s mission. As expected, FOX is making that push.

Should there be any concern from the Big Ten? The conference would be bringing in a boat load of money with its potential new deal with FOX, which was expected, but the ratings for FS1 have been disappointing since its launch. The Big Ten could suffer a drop in exposure if airing game son FS1 compared to any exposure it picked up from ESPN or ESPN2. FOX also falls behind network ratings delivered by ABC and CBS, although perhaps that could change once programs like Ohio State and Michigan (and Penn State) begin making appearances on FOX.

Awful Announcing makes another interesting point here with regard to how the relationship between the Big Ten, FOX and ESPN would co-exist…

There’s another half of the Big Ten’s package to go, and odds are ESPN will want to pick it up and share with Fox in the same way they do with these other conferences.  The questions for Fox are which games the network gets and how lucrative this package might be – do they get the first choice each week and can they put big drawing teams on FS1 to draw more viewers for the cable network (and eventually demand higher subscription fees to create more revenue).

For the Big Ten, this is an easy choice. FOX needs programming and the Big Ten carries a big banner and helps the FOX brand get more east coast exposure. Better yet, FOX is willing to pay big bucks to get the Big Ten media rights, or whatever percent they can of it. It’s a win-win for the Big Ten even if it sees some down ratings on FOX networks compared to past game son ESPN’s networks.

The bottom line is always the bottom line. Get money, Big Ten.

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