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The sports bubble isn’t deflating yet: The Big 10 just raised its TV prices 3x, and ESPN, CBS and Fox are paying up

$2.64 billion over six years.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Coming to your screen for the next six years: The same sports, with a higher price tag.

ESPN has finalized a deal with the Big 10 collegiate athletic conference that will keep some of the college division’s games on the network, with a substantial price hike. ESPN, along with Fox Sports and CBS, will pay a total of $2.64 billion for a six-year deal with the Big 10. That’s triple what ESPN and CBS are paying in the Big 10’s current deal, notes Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand.

We don’t normally spend much time discussing college sports carriage deals here, but this one is worth noting because of the context: For the past year, the TV Industrial Complex has been shuddering because of ESPN’s disclosure that it had lost a sizable number of subscribers.

That generated a new conventional wisdom: Since ESPN’s subscriber base was shrinking, it wouldn’t be able to keep spending more money on sports rights — the main thing that differentiated the network from competitors.

So the Big 10 deal signals that the new conventional wisdom isn’t right, at least not yet. Sports leagues are going to try to continue raising the rates for their games, even if the total TV audience continues to shrink. And ESPN will keep paying, at least for some of them.

Next question: Where will ESPN get the money to pay for all of this? I asked ESPN boss John Skipper about this in February, at our Code Media conference, and he argued that his network would be able to keep raising prices for its programming, and its advertising — and that it would generate more money from digital, as well. The Big 10 deal indicates that he’ll need substantial boosts from all three.

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