The Big Ten is close to finalizing a new rights deal that will shift some football games to Fox, co-owner of the Big Ten Network, sources said.
Unlike the previous deal, ESPN will not get first pick of the games available. Nevertheless, the cost of ESPN’s rights for Big Ten football and basketball games will rise to a reported $190 million a year from $150 million.
Even before it is announced, the deal is being criticized as paying more for less by analyst Rich Greenfield of BTIG, who has been loudly telling investors to sell stock in Disney, which owns ESPN.
“ESPN should be cutting back on sports rights to focus on rights that are critical to its future carriage/rate negotiations,” Greenfield wrote. At a time when cord-cutting is slowing profit growth, “unfortunately ESPN remains far too confident in its future.”
But insiders note that the higher rate is the cost of doing business in the sports category, and that having a broad selection of games that appeal to different regions of the country helps with both advertisers and distributors. ESPN had no comment.