While it hasn't had the most success on the field in recent years as its conference counterparts, there's one area the Big Ten has been able to maintain its dominance: revenue. Thanks to the Big Ten Network Big Ten schools have been bringing in more money annually than schools around the country -- there's a reason every conference wants a network now -- and the conference doesn't expect that to change.
According to a report in the Journal & Courier, the Big Ten projects that its revenues will continue to grow each year, and with a new television deal on the way, the conference expects 12 of its 14 schools to pull in approximately $44.5 million during the 2017-18 school year. That would be the first year of the new television deal.
The two Big Ten schools who won't bring in the full amount are the newest members, Maryland and Rutgers. Like Nebraska, the new Big Ten members won't receive their full share until after spending six years in the Big Ten.
While the $44.5 million payoff is still four years away, don't worry, Big Ten schools won't go broke before then. The conference projects that 11 -- Nebraska doesn't get its full share until 2017-18 -- schools will pull in $27 million this year, $30.9 million in 2014-15, $34.1 million in 2015-16 and $35.5 million in 2016-17.
Maybe instead of unionizing college athletes should just form a conference.
According to CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, the $44.5 million figure is based on a new primary rights deal and other conference distribution for the conference to be in place following the 2016-17. Maryland and Rutgers join the league July 1.
The Big Ten is the last major conference to renegotiate its rights fees in the current cycle. The chase for those rights fees was largely responsible for the upheaval caused by conference realignment. That period is thought to be over for now. The other four BCS leagues have deals in place that extend out to at least the mid 2020s.
The existing 10-year rights deal with ESPN alone worth a reported $1 billion expires following the 2016-17 academic year. If they haven't already begun, negotiations on that deal are expected to commence soon. League schools currently earn approximately $21 million per year.
Industry experts have predicted Fox will be a major player in bidding on the Big Ten. It is a partner with the conference in the Big Ten Network. Fox also has deals with the Big 12 and Pac-12 but has no postseason (bowl) presence now with the loss of the Cotton Bowl to the College Football Playoff. With the launch of Fox Sports 1, Fox also would be in need of content to drive viewership.
The $44.5 million figure would far outstrip any other conference's revenue at present. However, such deals are historically backloaded. The largest part of the payout comes at the end of the contract. For example, the Big 12 currently averages $20 million annually in revenue per school. The Pac-12 is still projecting an average of $30 million per school despite problems with carriage on its Pac-12 Network. The SEC is expected to reap a windfall from its network that launches in August.
The Big Ten's bargaining position will be enhanced by the addition of a ninth conference game in 2016. That extra game means more inventory to sell to potential rightsholders as well as more content for that wildly successful Big Ten Network.
Commissioner Jim Delany began exploring the idea of a network about a decade ago when he perceived the conference being undervalued by ESPN.
A Big Ten official said projected annual revenues are provided to members each year but stressed they are only projected.