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Big Ten and ESPN Appear Headed For Divorce

The Big Ten are close to announcing a new media rights agreement according to Commissioner Jim Delany. Who will be the rightsholder though remains in question.

When asked for insight into the matter, and whether or not ESPN would be part of the package, Delany said “I wouldn’t talk about walking away from anybody or walking toward anybody. We’re interested in having great partners that have great platforms that are interested in marketing and promotion, and the market will decide what happens. ESPN’s been a great partner. CBS has. Fox has. So it’s a new day, and we approach it that way.”

The Big Ten’s ten year, one billion dollar deal with ESPN is expiring in 2017, and according to the Sports Business Journal, FOX Sports is on the verge of gaining half of the media rights for $250 million annually as part of a six-year deal. That does leave ESPN or another sports network in position to pick up the other half if they choose to do so.

“No one has amnesia about the relationship we’ve had with ESPN,” said Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips. “They’ve been wonderful partners. But we’re at a different place – and I think they’re in a different place – in 2016 than we were in the last round. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get to the altar together and get married again, but we’re at the dating stage right now. That’s a process, and that always occurs when you go through a renegotiation. You certainly love to continue to stay married with that current partner. But ultimately, you have to do what’s in the best interests of the 14 institutions.”

 

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