Big Ten’s Reported New TV Rights Deal Has Major Implications For Notre Dame
The Big Ten is nearing the end of negotiations for its media rights deal with FOX, CBS, and NBC, Brett McMurphy reported Monday night.
Industry experts expect the Big Ten's new TV deal to be worth more than $1 billion annually. The league's current media rights partnership, which is with FOX and ESPN, is worth a reported $440 million per year.
If the Big Ten's new partners are FOX, CBS, and NBC, it would be a big deal in college sports, and not just because it would represent the first time in 40 years that Big Ten football and basketball games aren't on ESPN.
Big Implications For Notre Dame
The Big Ten has pursued Notre Dame as an expansion school on and off for the past 30 years. Each time, the Irish have spurned the league's advances.
Many have speculated, though, that since the Big Ten poached UCLA and, most importantly, Notre Dame's chief rival USC from the Pac-12 that the decision calculus could be different this time around in South Bend. Notre Dame prioritizes a national schedule that literally allows its program to be featured coast-to-coast. The Big Ten can now offer that, with schools from New Jersey to Los Angeles.
Notre Dame also likes to promote its rich history and academic prestige, both of which are important — and abundant — qualities in the Big Ten.
But the biggest impediment to Notre Dame's potential membership with the Big Ten, and any conference, for that matter, is scheduling. The Irish have been independent in football throughout the entire history of the program, and Notre Dame relishes the agency that independence affords it in determining its own game times (courtesy of its individual TV deal with NBC).
Joining the Big Ten could imperil that. Notre Dame would no longer be able to avoid noon kickoffs, and that doesn't appeal to the Irish.
But if the Big Ten is going into business with NBC, that would be significant. Suddenly, Notre Dame and the Big Ten share a business partner. At a time when the college football expansion wars could be won by landing the Fighting Irish, that's a huge development.
The Big Ten could leverage its new relationship with NBC to bring Notre Dame to the table. From there, perhaps the Big Ten could bring Notre Dame aboard by grandfathering it and its custom TV deal with NBC into the league, thereby allowing the Irish to keep their game times under local control.
Don't Get Your Hopes Up
But then again, the Big Ten partnering with NBC is exactly what Notre Dame has reportedly been looking for in its quest to remain independent.
CBS Sports reported in July that Notre Dame, in an effort to ensure its independence remains economically viable, is looking to increase the payment it receives from NBC for its exclusive football TV rights from the $22 million it currently receives each year to $75 million:
For NBC to feel comfortable raising Notre Dame's valuation to such a level, it is seeking "shoulder programming" (in this case, games played before and/or after Notre Dame's contests) from a Power Five conference to enhance its college football coverage.
When such a move had been speculated previously, the Big Ten was the conference mentioned most often as a target. However, the Big 12 has emerged as a strong option to fill NBC's shoulder programming needs.
The Big Ten's new relationship with NBC is precisely the kind of shoulder programming the network would require to up the ante in its contract with Notre Dame, the current version of which expires in 2025.
If that were to happen, viewers in Big Ten country would have to get used to some new start times. Notre Dame plays many games starting at 2:30 eastern, meaning that shoulder programming by way of Big Ten games would result in 6 p.m. kickoff times.
Regardless, the immediate future of Fighting Irish football is likely to be independent. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has maintained that the Irish will remain independent until or unless they simply can no longer afford to.
At this point, Notre Dame is different than the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, UCLA, and USC — it literally can afford to wait.