In a sign of how thoroughly complicated sports programming deals have become, the Big 10 Conference new rights package includes a deal for a 24/7 cable network in a JV with Fox Cable Networks and new 10-year agreements with Disney’s ABC and ESPN. The channel gets an automatic boost from its relationship with minority partner Fox Cable, which has a 20-year contract to run the channel and has already secured a spot on News Corp. sibling’s DirecTV line up. (News Corp. owns a majority stake in DirecTV.) The conference will establish guidelines for advertising (no alcohol or gambling) and programming.
Both deals have significant multi-platform components. Fox Sports Networks president Bob Thompson said some content from The Big 10 Network could be distributed online and on phones. Meanwhile, ESPN includes broadband service ESPN360 in the list of networks that will carry Big 10 games. ESPN’s new media outlets, including ESPN360, ESPN.com, Mobile ESPN, and ESPN VOD, will offer live events (including simulcasts), extended video highlights including in-progress games and more. Press release.