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ESPN Poised to Lose Big Ten Rights for First Time in 40 Years, per Reports

ESPN could be on the brink of losing its broadcast rights to Big Ten football and basketball games.

The conference’s rights negotiations are nearing a conclusion, and CBS and NBC are the frontrunners to purchase the conference’s remaining inventory, according to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand. An agreement could be reached as soon as the end of this week.

Fox Sports already has agreed to a package that includes a football game in its noon ET time slot, plus games on Fox Sports 1 and Big Ten Network, a channel in which Fox owns a 60% stake, according to Ourand.

CBS and NBC are considering purchasing rights to football games in the 3:30 ET window and prime time. Amazon also has submitted a bid, but CBS and NBC are the frontrunners, according to Ourand.

CBS is expected to offer $350 million for the 3:30 p.m. ET window, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.

Meantime, a Big Ten source tells Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde that no announcement is imminent.

All that said, ESPN could reconsider and raise its bid. The network is still negotiating with the conference, according to Ourand.

ESPN consummated its first rights agreement with the Big Ten in 1982 and has broadcast the conference’s games without interruption ever since. Even if the network loses its Big Ten rights, it could still carry some nonconference games involving Big Ten teams, depending on the opposing team’s rights.

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