There are a number of factors that influence NFL television rights, including conference coverage and divisional matchups. Contracts are awarded based on things like the conference a network will cover and what types of primetime games are going to be broadcast. The rights for college football and other sports on television work quite differently. Networks will go after different conferences to cover their games with some paying much more for certain conferences that are of particular interest to them.
This is a unique characteristic of broadcasting in college basketball and football, and one that can easily create a sense of disparity in terms of what different conferences are making in return. Many conferences will divide the money that comes from television rights among their schools. What’s questionable about this is that certain high-demand conferences get paid much more from tv rights than others, putting certain schools at a disadvantage.
In a sense, this disparity is not created by tv networks, but rather amplified, as the teams that benefit most from lucrative tv deals are ones that are already successful, with high levels of exposure and a strong fan base. Programming challenges also arise based on the sports of preference of each conference. For instance, the ACC draws more for basketball while the SEC draws more for football, and the Big East schools don’t even have football programs.
Some of these conferences are just simply more popular than others – possibly the largest influence on the total amount of money networks are willing to pay for college tv deals. The following is a full list of the 10 biggest network television deals in college sports. This list does not cover independent team contracts (particularly football teams), as these teams do not typically release information on their television deals. Notre Dame is one example of a team that has not publicly released information on its contract with NBC for the broadcasts of its football games.
10. Mountain West – ESPN/CBS – $116 Million – $18 Million Per Year
The Mountain West Conference, which has grown in recent years with the additions of Boise State and Fresno State, plus Hawaii as a football-only member, received a contract for seven years in 2013 with CBS and ESPN. While CBS will be looking to promote its CBS Sports Network with these games, ESPN has its foot in the door of many college conferences. CBS has no plans to air MWC events outside of its cable network.
9. AAC – ESPN – $126 Million – $18 Million Per Year
The American Athletic Conference features football teams from former Big East schools. The AAC struck up a seven-year deal with ESPN that goes until 2020. ESPN will pay $18 million per year for the rights to air both football and basketball games in the conference. This contract has a dramatically low value, due in part to the AAC planning on losing Louisville to the ACC after the 2013-14 college season.
8. Big Ten (Football Championship Game) – Fox – $145 Million – $24.1 Million Per Year
One unusual element of the Big Ten’s television contracts is that it has a separate deal for its championship game with Fox. While ESPN and the Big Ten Network air plenty of regular season football games, Fox is paying $24.1 million per year to air the Big Ten Championship Game until 2016. The winner of this game will play in the Rose Bowl or even the BCS Championship, depending on its rank.
7. Big East – Fox – $500 Million – $41.6 Million Per Year
The Big East landed a large basketball coverage deal with Fox in 2012. This twelve-year deal worth $500 million will allow Fox the right to cover games on Fox Sports 1 and other Fox-branded networks. The contract is relatively low in value because the Big East is a basketball-heavy conference with no football programs. However, the total value of the contract could increase by $100 million if two more programs enter in the future.
6. Big Ten – ESPN – $1 Billion – $100 Million Per Year
ESPN holds the first-tier rights for Big Ten events for $1 billion up until 2017. What this means is that ESPN has the first choice of games that it wants to pick for broadcast. While the Big Ten Network, which we’ll get to later, has more access across the conference, that network only has second-tier rights and therefore has to wait until ESPN makes its choices before picking its games in most sports.
5. SEC – ESPN – $2.25 Billion – $150 Million Per Year
The Southeastern Conference has a contract with ESPN that allows the network to cover a number of SEC football and basketball games each year. ESPN can broadcast weekly games under the SEC Network moniker and will share them with all sorts of networks around the country including some CBS, ABC and NBC affiliates where no local games take precedence. This $2.25 billion deal is good for fifteen years and will end in 2024.
4. Big XII – ESPN/FOX – $2.6 Billion – $200 Million Per Year
ESPN and Fox have joined forces to pay around $100 million each per year for access to Big XII college sporting events. The two networks have first and second-tier rights to games from now until 2025. This ensures that they have full control over the specific games that they want to broadcast without other networks getting in the way. The contract brings each team’s annual payout to $20 million and reserves third-tier right for schools to negotiate their own individual contracts, adding additional revenue for teams.
3. Big Ten – Big Ten Network – $2.8 Billion – $112 Million Per Year
The Big Ten Network is operated for the most part by Fox, with the Big Ten conference having a 49% share in the network. The network was created to highlight Big Ten events and has sister channels in all of Fox’s national and regional sports networks. The addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten in recent years has buoyed the network’s contract for TV rights until 2032. However, ESPN is still paying $100 million a year for first-tier rights to the conference until 2017.
2. Pac-12 – ESPN/Fox – $3 Billion – $250 Million Per Year
ESPN and Fox both have the rights to Pac-12 sporting events and will pay $250 million a year until 2024. Both entities will split the total $3 billion cost. Fox has particularly made the most out of the Pac-12 contract, airing games on Saturdays on the national Fox network. The deal has also been utilized to help generate additional programming for their growing Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 networks.
1. ACC – ESPN/Raycom – $3.6 billion – $240 million per year
The Atlantic Coast Conference has a deal that runs through 2024 to get more of its games on ESPN as well as networks attached to the Raycom Sports system. This includes full rights to the ACC men’s basketball championship. The value was adjusted from ESPN’s old $100 million-per-year deal thanks in part to Pittsburgh, Louisville and Syracuse joining the conference, with Notre Dame also joining in for all sports outside of football.
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