Apple Big Ten bid ‘not credible,’ but that could change

An Apple Big Ten bid – seeking to buy at least some of the TV rights for the college football division – has been described as not credible, but that may change.

Apple had been in earlier discussions with the Big Ten conference, but those hadn’t made any progress. However, when the news broke that USC and UCLA were coming aboard, an Apple exec picked up the phone…

Sports Business Journal reports.

Soon after the news about USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten broke, an Apple exec called the conference with a simple message: It wanted to reengage in media-rights talks, report SBJ’s John Ourand and Michael Smith. That call was emblematic of a chaotic day where media companies that had spent months finalizing how much they would pay for Big Ten rights were rushing back to the drawing board to see how the addition of two high-profile schools would change their bidding strategy.

It seems certain that negotiations will now extend into August and may be completed after Labor Day. Originally, the Big Ten had been planning to wrap up its rights negotiations at some point in July. The Big Ten was expected to be the first college conference to eclipse $ 1 billion in media-rights fees annually – and that was before USC and UCLA said they would join. The Big Ten presidents officially voted to add the two schools tonight.

Fox Sports has already reached a deal to carry at least half of the conference’s package, and CBS was viewed as a front-runner to take at least a package of Saturday football games in the 3:30 pm ET window. That left Amazon, ESPN and NBC competing for a third package. As late as this morning, Apple and Warner Bros. Discovery were not viewed as credible bidders. That could all change.

Media valuations are based on the addition of two more schools’ worth of games, plus a noticeable improvement in the quality of games on offer, which will make the second and third choices of games more attractive to networks each week.

The move also makes the Big Ten more valuable to media companies by devaluing a Plan B for companies that don’t get Big Ten rights. Yesterday, media companies left out of the Big Ten would have turned their focus to the Pac-12. But the defections of USC and UCLA have caused media companies to question the value of focusing on the Pac-12.

Today’s blockbuster news culminated a whirlwind of back-and-forth discussions over the last five days. The Big Ten had been in serious talks with the leadership at both universities for more than two months, but the discussions turned more urgently over the past weekend. The schools reached out in tandem to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren on Sunday to speed up the process, saying they wanted to apply for membership immediately. That led up to today’s bombshell that the Trojans and Bruins would be joining the Big Ten in 2024.

While the piece didn’t reveal the name of the Apple exec who made the call, Apple commenter Philip Elmer-DeWitt had his own theory about who might be behind the renewed negotiations.

Someone at Apple is a big college football fan, and I think I know who.

It does seem likely a theory.

Apple is already believed to be nearing a deal for the NFL Sunday Ticket.

Photo: Mike Mulholland /

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Naveen Kumar

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