Fox Sports consults Big Ten Conference in media rights negotiations

Traditional media companies CBS, ESPN and NBC have so far met with Fox Sports.Images: getty

A curious situation unfolded during the Big Ten media rights negotiations this year that caused much concern for network and digital executives.

two old people Fox Sports frames – Mark Silverman and larry jones — play an active role in the conference media rights negotiations.

This means that Silverman, President and COO of Fox Sports, and Jones, Executive Vice President of Fox Sports, were in the room and listened intently as executives of rival companies – Amazon, Apple, SCS, ESPN, NBC and Turner — make their pitch for the conference rights packages.

Commissioner of the Big Ten Kevin Warren runs these meetings, of course. He led the conference for three years and has the final say on which company will end up with the rights. Kerry Kennythe conference’s senior vice president for television, media, analytics and emerging platforms, also plays an important role in each of these meetings.

Leaders say they have never encountered this type of situation before where they had to make their case not just to a competitive network, but actually to its leaders.

Everything is on the up and up, even if the situation is unusual. Sources say Fox Sports has already reached an agreement to renew its pact with the Big Ten, so it’s not like Silverman and Jones are getting trade secrets to improve their own offering.


Silverman and Jones’ presence in these negotiations is part of a deal Fox Sports made with the Big Ten when they signed previous rights deals in 2017.

The previous agreement gave Big Ten Network control of Big Ten conference media rights for an indefinite period. Silverman, who ran Big Ten Network in 2017, was part of the negotiations with ESPN as BTN’s representative at the time.

This year, Silverman and Jones are participating in those talks as designated representatives of BTN, the channel Fox Sports majority owns and the entity that controls the rights to the Big Ten.


Essentially, the two Fox Sports executives act as both BTN’s designated representatives and media consultants, which is one of the reasons the Big Ten didn’t hire a media consultant to help. in these negotiations.

For months, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Big Ten negotiations was who Warren was using as a consultant. There was no clear answer. The idea that these are two well-established network leaders is certainly a surprise.

the details of Fox’s new deal aren’t set – even Big Ten or Fox executives don’t know how many games this package will have, as the conference is still trying to sell one, two, or maybe three more packages to d other suitors. How many games go to Fox depends on how the conference structures those other packages. The conference plans to award these packages by Memorial Day.

Fox will have the main package and its offering will have at least as many games as its current offering, probably more. Under its current deal, Fox hosts 27 Big Ten football games each season.

So far, traditional media companies CBS, ESPN and NBC have met the Big Ten and Fox Sports.

CBS is looking for high-profile football games to replace its Saturday afternoon SEC game, which leaves for ESPN after the 2023 season.

NBC has been pushing for a weekly Big Ten game it can set up with Notre Dame for a Saturday doubleheader. NBC has the rights to Notre Dame football through the 2025 season.

ESPN airs more of the top college football games than any other network and wants to retain some of the consistently highly rated Big Ten.

Turner Sports has also expressed interest, although its executives have waited to make an official speech until DiscoveryThe purchase of Warner Media passed through regulatory channels. This $43 billion deal became official on April 8 and they are expected to meet the Big Ten in the coming weeks.

On On the digital front, Amazon and Apple have also had discussions with the Big Ten. Both digital companies are increasingly using sports as a way to gain more subscribers for their streaming services. Amazon will exclusively carry NFL “Thursday Night Football” this fall, and Apple just started exclusively carrying Friday night MLB games earlier this month.

Having so many bidders all but guarantees the conference will see a healthy rise during the six-year, $2.64 billion deal it signed with ESPN and Fox in 2017.

This situation presents an illustration of the college sports landscape where the two major college sports conferences are essentially aligned with rival networks.

ESPN holds all SEC rights through the 2033-34 school year and owns and operates the SEC Network. Fox Sports will be the Big Ten’s primary rights holder and is the majority owner of the Big Ten Network.

John Ourand can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ and read his weekly newsletter and listen to his weekly podcast.

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