Notre Dame would remain independent if it can earn at least $75 million annually in media rights revenue from current broadcast partner NBC, sources told CBS Sports. The Fighting Irish's deal with the network is set to expire in 2025.
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 is expected to announce a new $1 billion media rights deal possibly as early as this month with Fox as its primary partner. It is believed to be seeking 2-3 other partners to air its programming with NBC reportedly among the bidders.
Outgoing Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had not heard anything specific on NBC targeting the Big 12 for additional programming but said such a move "makes sense." The Big 12 may be one of the few leagues with inventory available as its media rights deal also expires in 2025.
Brett Yormark replaces Bowlsby as Big 12 commissioner on Aug. 1. In a press conference at Big 12 Media Days last week, Yormark said the conference is "open for business."
Notre Dame's name has come up again in conference realignment amid USC and UCLA deciding to join the Big Ten last month. Because of the value of the Big Ten's next deal, estimated at $80 million to $100 million annually for each member institution, it was thought Notre Dame had a generational decision to make as to whether it should remain independent.
NBC's negotiations are expected to extend across the next 2-3 weeks, according to a source. The network has been the rightsholder for Notre Dame home football games since 1991. The current deal averages $15 million per year, but Notre Dame is earning $22 million annually due to the backloaded nature of the contract.