Delivering a major blow to the struggling NBC Sports Network, ESPN has reportedly matched NBC’s bid for Big East television rights.
ESPN has agreed to match NBC Sports’ multi-year bid for Big East television rights and is now “finalizing” a seven-year agreement with the conference, Sports Business Daily and ESPN.com reported Thursday. Under the deal, which would last through the 2019-20 school year, ESPN would pay the Big East $10 million for 2013-14 (basketball only) and then $20 million/year starting in 2014-15 (football and basketball).
ESPN originally offered the Big East a $130 million/year deal in 2011. The conference rejected the deal.
The new ESPN deal still has to be approved by the conference presidents. A vote could take place as early this weekend, according to the ESPN.com report.
Under NBC’s bid, games would have aired on both NBC Sports Network and the NBC broadcast network. According to the Sports Business Daily report, ESPN is “not likely” to put any games on ABC, but would sublicense a “significant” number of games to other networks.
Keep in mind CBS is expected to continue airing Big East basketball games under a separate deal.
The Big East would have provided NBC Sports Network with much-needed live sports content. From November 26 to February 10, only sixteen programs on NBCSN have drawn even 200,000 viewers.