On Tuesday, John Ourand & Michael Smith of Sports Business Daily reported that Fox Sports is "close to signing a deal that gives it half of the Big Ten's available media rights package."
Now, to be clear, the available media rights means the section of the league's rights that they don't keep for themselves via the Big Ten Network. If you prefer to think of it this way, Fox is acquiring half of the rights that ESPN currently holds.
This is both an unexpected and a completely expected move. Fox is already a majority partner with the Big Ten in the Big Ten Network, so it was the obvious move for Fox to want to snap up the remaining media rights. It is somewhat surprising that they're not grabbing all of the available share, but given that the SBD report says ESPN's offer was "non-competitive" since they're dealing with crashing revenues, it also makes sense that Fox is dealing with that as well while wrapping up year three of FS1 and FS2.
You can read the SBD story for the details of how many games the deal actually entails, but let's get into the impact on Marquette and the Big East. Sure, adding Big Ten basketball games to the schedule is going to bump a few Big East games down to FS2, and even more down to the regional Fox Sports Network affiliates. Is that great news for the Big East? No, of course not. Should you, as a Marquette fan, feel worried about that? No, probably not. Marquette has consistently been one of the best draws on FS1, and that's with the basketball team experiencing a near-historic low point. Remember last year's Gavitt Games encounter with Iowa? That game got the best ratings of the four Gavitt Games contests that FS1 broadcast, and you can be sure that people were tuning out in droves when Iowa went up big. In fact, that was the highest rated November college hoops game in FS1's short history. If Marquette draws the best numbers amongst Big East teams, their games will still get the good Big East slots on FS1.
A few games here and there getting downshifted is the ever so slight downside for the Big East. The significant upside is too much to ignore. Bringing in Big Ten games, both football and basketball, to FS1 and FS2 increases the networks' overall ratings. The fact of the matter is that the 14 schools in the Big Ten (stop snickering at their inability to count, we're busy trying to compliment them) all have larger enrollments than any of the schools in the Big East. Larger enrollments = more alumni = more fans = more potential viewers. More people watching Fox means more people seeing ads for Big East games, which can turn into higher ratings for Big East games. More people watching Fox means Fox's revenues go up, decreasing their need to cut costs.
From financial and publicity standpoints, sharing a little bit of space on FS1 and FS2 with the Big Ten will most likely end up benefiting the Big East in the long run. If you're of a more vengeful mindset, and I wouldn't mind if you were, then you can't be disappointed to see Fox rip away a segment of ESPN's programming stockpile.