According to a report from Sportsbusinessdaily’s John Ourand, the Big Ten conference has agreed to a new deal with ESPN that will bring it $190 million per year over six years. The newest deal, which comes on the heels of the conference’s $240 million deal with Fox Sports for the initial half of the media rights, will bring commissioner Jim Delany and his merry band of 12 schools $2.64 billion over a six year period.
While the numbers are the headline, the positioning and strengthening of the relationship with the two of the most prominent media entities in college football should provide more than monetary benefits. ESPN and Fox are uniquely positioned as the news cycle setters in sports. With high profile personalities, shows, and daily digital content, each media company has access to a wide range of consumers, and is therefore able to shape the narrative for better or worse depending on the coverage. Having a partnership with both media giants will continue to provide the Big Ten the access and broad reach it needs to continue its ongoing battle with the SEC for conference superiority on and off the field.
With Fox Sports having the rights to the Big Ten Championship game as well as regular season games in addition to ESPN continuing to air the conference on its family of networks, including ABC, it won’t be hard to find the league’s weekly battles all the way up until the title game.
Delany and the conference have gotten to this point by making some cunning strategic moves at the top and the addition of some high profile coaches on the field. While the addition of Rutgers and Maryland has largely been a flop in terms of bringing quality football teams to the conference, there’s been a clear boost in profile by bringing in those east coast markets. With coaching superstar and media magnet Jim Harbaugh providing the conference headlines on a seemingly daily basis and Urban Meyer establishing Ohio State as force to be reckoned with on and off the field, the conference is positioned to develop the storylines media partners and consumers drool over for the years to come. ESPN and Fox certainly realized this, and the Big Ten is even richer as a result.