Business is booming for the Big Ten.
According to tax records obtained by USA Today, the Big Ten had a significant revenue increase – nearly $110 million – during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015. Overall, the conference brought in $448.8 million in total revenue, which divvies up to “roughly $32.4 million to each of its longest-standing 11 members.”
Not too shabby. By comparison, during the same time frame, the SEC brought in $527.4 million to distribute to its 14 members.
Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland – the Big Ten’s three newest members – are still working their way toward full league revenue.
In fiscal 2015, Nebraska received $19.8 million, Maryland $24.1 million and Rutgers nearly $10.5 million, according to the new return, which the conference provided Wednesday in response to a request from USA TODAY Sports.
The return also showed that the Big Ten loaned Maryland an additional $11.6 million. That money was an advance against future conference distributions, deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia said in an interview. Traviolia declined to discuss the reasons for the loan, but as part of a settlement to a legal dispute with the Atlantic Coast Conference over its exit fee, Maryland agreed in August 2014 to let the ACC keep more than $31 million in revenue share money the conference had been withholding from the school.
The additions of Maryland and Rutgers – and their respective television markets (Washington D.C. and New York) – appear to have brought in a sizeable chunk of revenue for the league.
From USA Today:
The Big Ten annually provides a figure for what it terms "Sports Revenue." Based on the way the conference categorizes other revenue streams, "Sports Revenue" includes — but is not exclusively comprised of — TV revenue and revenue from football bowl games.
The conference reported about $317 million in "Sports Revenue" in fiscal 2014 and almost $397 million in 2015 — an $80 million difference. Based on reports from other conferences that approximate their bowl revenue increases from the CFP, it is likely that $50 million to $60 million of the Big Ten's "Sports Revenue" increase is attributable to the TV rights fee increases that resulted from adding Maryland and Rutgers.
The introduction of the College Football Playoff also undoubtedly played a role in the increased revenue.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten is working toward a new TV deal. SportsBusiness Journal reported last month that the conference is nearing a $250 million per year agreement with Fox (which owns 51% of Big Ten Network) that would span six years.
The reported deal with Fox, which is said to have outbid ESPN by a significant margin, would cover just half of the league’s overall package. Whether ESPN gets back in the mix for the Big Ten’s remaining media rights (as John Skipper says it wants to) remains to be seen.
The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that things are up in the air.
Some industry sources will tell you the Big Ten is set to end the decades-long relationship. Others believe Delany remains determined to keep ESPN in the fold, suggesting that ESPN and Fox annually alternate broadcasting the Big Ten football championship game and the Ohio State-Michigan game, which last year was the most-watched noon game in 18 years (10.8 million viewers).
SportsBusiness Journal reported that Fox/FS1 will commit $250 million a year for six years to secure around 25 football and 50 basketball games. The Big Ten's expiring 10-year deal with ESPN was worth $100 million a year.
"The market," commissioner Jim Delany said, "will decide what happens."
Regardless of the networks involved, the deal(s) will surely bring in huge sums for the conference.
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