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College football realignment: ESPN and Big Ten part ways for good, per report

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ESPN has shown Big Ten games for over 40 years, but that partnership appears to be over in the latest phase of college football realignment.

The four-letter network has pulled out of its negotiations with the Big Ten, effectively ending the relationship between the two, SBJ's John Ourand reports.

Sports Business Journal originally reported that the Big Ten offered ESPN a seven-year contract worth $380 million per year as part of a new agreement.

But ESPN said no, walking away from the talks entirely, and allowing a chance for CBS and NBC to come to the table, according to multiple reports.

That means no more Big Ten football or basketball on the ESPN networks for the foreseeable future.

The Big Ten's current media deal ends after the 2023 season and the conference has been in discussions with networks about broadcasting their sports.

ESPN currently pays the Big Ten $190 million per year, according to The Athletic. This latest offer would have doubled that figure.

Michigan came in at No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, making its first appearance in the semifinal.

No more Big Ten football on ESPN going forward?

Analysts have predicted that the Big Ten could command up to $1 billion combined from all its media deals after adding USC and UCLA starting in 2024.

CBS is preparing to offer the Big Ten a deal in the "neighborhood" of $350 million per year to show football games in its 3:30 p.m. Eastern time slot, which currently shows SEC football, according to the New York Post.

The Big Ten's move away from ESPN comes after the SEC's decision to move their broadcast partnership from CBS to the ESPN/ABC networks starting in 2024. Before that, the SEC partnered with CBS for nearly 20 years.

Fox already owns the Big Ten's so-called "A" package of games - the most prestigious matchups in a given week - and will show a football game from the conference at 12 p.m. Eastern on their network.

That's in addition to showing B1G games on FS1 and the Big Ten Network.

That means CBS and NBC are negotiating for the right to split the "B" package, or the games that are considered second-tier right behind the week's most impactful matchups.

Big Ten officials responded to reports about its media rights negotiations, saying:

The Big Ten Conference is currently working with world-class partners to complete multifaceted media rights agreements. The overall constructs of the new rights agreements have not been finalized. The conference continues to have productive meetings with both linear and direct to consumer media partners. We are committed to delivering unparalleled resources and exposure opportunities for Big Ten Conference member institutions, athletic programs, student-athletes, coaches, and fans. We are very thankful to the media companies who recognize the value of Big Ten programming and want to deliver it to our fans around the world in a forward-thinking manner.

Whatever happens, it appears we've seen the last of Big Ten football on ESPN, at least for a while.

(h/t Sports Business Journal)

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