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Groundbreaking Collaboration Among NBC, CBS, and Fox in New Big 10 Media Deal

*The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of Santa Clara University.

Credit: Kyle Calzia

Never before seen: three networks working together in a “win-win-win opportunity.” NBC, CBS, and Fox recently signed with The Big 10 Conference in the largest broadcasting deal in the history of college sports - a seven year deal which is projected to be worth at least $7 billion dollars. This collaboration amongst three top sports broadcasting networks is unprecedented, not only because of the sheer dollar amount and the exciting new collaboration, but also because of the legal impact on spectrum scarcity and the new precedent for relationships among top broadcast networks.

Despite our modern advances in technology, the spectrum remains a scarce, heavily regulated, resource for broadcasting networks. Spectrum is the range of frequencies used to deliver broadcast signals. Physics restricts the type and amount of usable frequencies, which is why the United States government regulates spectrum so diligently. The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) was formed to dictate the allocation of the spectrum based on time limitations and resources. Fox, CBS, and NCB have chosen to work together to use this precious resource in a new and collaborative way.

Beginning on July 1, 2023, and spanning through the end of the 2029-2030 athletic year, Fox, CBS, and NBC will share broadcasting rights to Big 10 games, each with respective time slots. Fox will host the morning games beginning at noon ET with their “Big Noon Kick-Off” show. Then, CBS will nationally broadcast midday games beginning at 3:30 PM ET in 2024, taking over the slot currently held by the SEC. NBC’s “Big 10 Saturday Night” will end each day by airing the primetime evening games. Fox will air the most games, 24-32, NBC will air 14-16, and CBS will air 7 games in 2023 and 14-15 for the remainder of the deal. The networks will switch off who hosts the Big 10 Championship Game: Fox will broadcast the matchup in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029; CBS in 2024 and 2028; and NBC in 2026. Big 10 Network (which is 60% owned by Fox) will still be home to 38-41 games in 2023 and up to 50 per season moving forward, the majority of games being men's basketball.

The deal will pay out over $8 billion to Big 10 conference members. CBS has a smaller pay-out in year one, due to them only broadcasting 7 games. However, this will substantially increase in year two with CBS doubling games, and the introduction of UCLA and USC to the conference giving more games to televise. Eventually, the Big 10 will receive approximately $1.2 billion annually, distributing $80-$100 million to each of the 16 universities.

After this momentous deal, it is possible that other major broadcasting networks and conferences will follow suit. This will have an interesting impact on the climate of college football if conferences move to dominate specific time slots on specific networks.

This deal will also have more general implications on the college sports environment. One implication is the effect this will have on how other conferences negotiate their media deals. Although we often see conferences on two networks (and possibly one of their own), three is unprecedented. It will be interesting to see if more conferences begin to use this approach to give their fans all day access. Many are curious how the SEC will respond, with many believing the SEC will increase from an eight to nine conference game schedule, allowing it to reserve the rights to a more lucrative broadcasting deal. This deal may also have implications on recruiting, with players seeking an institution with high media exposure to facilitate more lucrative ‘Name, Image, and Likeness’ deals. It will also be interesting to see what revenue Big 10 will bring in on top of this deal during playoffs and the NCAA basketball tournament. The new Big 10 broadcasting deal opens up the possibility to reshape the atmosphere of collegiate broadcasting, transitioning to a more NFL-style approach.

Given the nature of these deals, we are hopeful to see more collaboration in the future amongst broadcasting networks. Collaboration not only in sports, but even across various broadcasting industries, will allow us to better allocate the scarce resource that is the spectrum.


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