The news has hit the wire that the Big Ten Conference and FOX Sports are close to a new media rights deal that hands off the conference's media rights to FOX according to Sports Business Daily/Sports Business Journal. According to the deal, roughly 25 football games and 50 basketball games will be carried on big FOX and FS1 beginning in the year 2017 and could be worth as much as $250 million per year over the course of a six-year period. This is all pretty inevitable, as FOX already was carrying the Big Ten Conference's football championship game on a yearly basis and its own conference network is a joint product of FOX Entertainment.
For comparison's sake, the Big East Conference's 10-year deal is worth only $500 million in TOTAL, so the big bucks are being shelled out for this bad boy. Speaking of the Big East - you, at home, might be wondering how this deal could affect your favorite team and your favorite conference. Let's do our best to size this up and take a look.
First thing's first: This is a win for FOX and FS1 in particular. The network's ratings have been woeful and their's no tiptoeing around it. No matter what they seem to do, they still aren't attracting enough eyeballs. It puts in to question what their longterm viability is, but securing the Big Ten Conference's media rights is a step in the right direction. With big name brands like Ohio State and Michigan alongside Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Penn State, and Indiana among others, the network should be able to sell, acquire more viewership and start gaining traction.
So that funnels us into this question: How does this affect the Big East? Well, it's pretty early to determine anything from the jump, especially when you consider that the Big Ten, right now, doesn't have anyone for the second half of their media rights deal. Here's the thing though: the Big East is exclusive to FOX and also has some of their games funneled to CBS and CBS Sports Network as well. There's no ESPN for them to funnel to. There's FS2, of course, but the Big East's exclusivity to FOX should help them.
Another thing that should keep Big East fans at ease for the moment is that the Big Ten Conference has their own network. The Big Ten Network has been televising both football and basketball games for quite a while. Football, the Big East obviously doesn't have to worry about. Basketball though has been housed at BTN, so the network, which just so happens to be a joint venture by both the B1G and FOX, will be able to be creative in terms of picking their spots for their basketball games. It's not like all the games will be thrown onto the FOX networks and the Big East is getting tossed on the backburner or anything.
In addition, there's the topic of exposure. More eyeballs brought onto the networks of FOX means more advertising opportunities. More advertising opportunities means more chances to strike to draw bigger audiences for Big East games. That, in it of itself, is a win for the conference and for FOX as well.
26 games featuring Big East teams were broadcasted across big CBS and CBS Sports Network, so with that amount doubled on FOX and FS1 for Big Ten teams, that could inflict a little bit of fear in Big East fans' minds. Another notion that could cause trouble is how much FOX executives value the games that are being televised. Would Michigan vs. Michigan State draw a wider audience over, say, Villanova vs. Xavier?
It goes back to the question re: ratings, and drastic and desperate times could call for drastic and desperate measures. This new deal and the amount of coin being thrown out should allow for FOX to have its pick of the litter when it comes to games, so that thought process could cause the execs to tab more flashy Big Ten matchups over what the Big East has to offer, which is a little goosebump-inducing if nothing else.
The answer to this question should become clearer once we know who is tag teaming with FOX for the Big Ten's media rights. If it's CBS, things get a little interesting as that's the same partnership that the Big East has. Things, in my opinion, would be really put to the test there. If it's ESPN, I think things could be a little more easygoing for Big East fans as the Worldwide Leader would likely be able to use their pull to their advantage. If, by some chance, NBC winds up tag teaming with FOX, it could not only bring back "Roundball Rock," but it would throw things for quite a loop.
At this juncture though, the results are relatively inconclusive. There's reason to be optimistic - more eyeballs and exposure on FS1 can't hurt the Big East at all if things remain the way they are or are split 'Even Steven' - and there's also reason to be pessimistic - you never know what woeful ratings could do to TV execs.