Report: NBC Sports Network closing in on TV deal with Big East

Stacy Revere

It appears ESPN won't exercise its right to match deal, which is rumored to be worth $20 million per year.

The Big East -- before the defections of Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville and the Catholic Seven, and the reneging on agreements to join from TCU, Boise State and San Diego State -- rejected a TV contract from ESPN that would have netted $155 million per year over a decade.

The Big East, at the time, rejected the offer to hedge its bets on the open market. Tonight, it appears that what's left of the conference will leave with what looks like chump change in comparison.

The Associated Press is reporting that the Big East is close to accepting a six-year deal from the NBC Sports Network for football and basketball broadcast rights worth around $20 million per year, according to "two people familiar" with negotiations, which likely won't be worth much more than the Mountain West's eventual deal. The offer is contingent on ESPN, the Big East's current rights holder, refusing to match NBC's offer.

ESPN.com reported on Saturday that the deal would likely feature a "bridge year" for the basketball half of the conference. ESPN's TV deal with Big East basketball ends this season, while the football portion of the contract runs out at the end of the 2013 campaign.

NBC Sports Network (which could, according to the AP story, move games to other networks that would include their own NBC, and possibly license games to other entities) is known to most viewers as the cable home of the National Hockey League. Its programming slate also includes Major League Soccer, and a large -- if generally unimpressive -- stable of college football, basketball and hockey from conferences such as the Mountain West, Atlantic 10, the Ivy League and the CAA. The network changed its name from VERSUS on Jan. 2, 2012, and was founded in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network (OLN).

The Big East will go through another couple of years of immense transition before settling with about 11 or 12 schools. The likely makeup of the conference by the time this kicks in will include Connecticut, South Florida, Temple, Cincinnati, Houston, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Tulane, East Carolina and the Naval Academy. The conference, in its previous incarnation, rejected a deal that would have garnered each school approximately $13 million a year, according to the ESPN story. With this deal, whether it's with NBC or ESPN, the schools will likely walk away with $2 million per year each.

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