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Jared Kamrass Discusses The Big Ten Conference Exploring Streaming Partnerships

As collegiate athletics continue to grow in popularity, the way in which games and events are broadcasted and distributed to fans is undergoing a revolution. Gone are the days of simply turning on the TV and channel surfing to watch a game. Now, viewers have a seemingly endless number of options for how they want to watch and where they want to watch: traditional ‘linear’ channels, cable, streaming services, mobile apps, and social media. With this shift, many conferences have begun exploring partnerships with streaming services to broadcast their athletic events, borne partially from the demise of the cable bundle and the necessity of reaching more potential fans where they are. According to Jared Kamrass, a sports media and marketing expert, “the Big Ten Conference, one of the most prestigious and successful athletic conferences in the country, is no exception.”

For decades, the Big Ten has been among the most premier sports properties for broadcast partners. Jared Kamrass points out that “the Big Ten was the first conference to create its own linear television network, and has consistently reset the market with its media rights deals.” After more than 40 years of partnership with ABC/ESPN, the 2023-2024 season will be the first time that the Big Ten won’t be affiliated with Disney, instead choosing to spread its coveted product amongst Fox, CBS, NBC and the Big Ten Network (BTN). Additionally, the conference has its own streaming service, called Big Ten Plus, which offers a variety of live and on-demand content for fans. According to Jared Kamrass, “despite inking the record breaking deal last summer, the Big Ten’s appetite for media partners may not yet be satisfied.”

One of the main advantages of partnering with a streaming service is the potential for increased revenue. According to Jared Kamrass, “streaming services have become major players in the world of sports broadcasting, with companies like Amazon, YouTube, Apple, and DAZN investing heavily in the space.” By partnering with one of these services, the Big Ten could potentially negotiate a more lucrative broadcasting agreement than they currently have with their network partners. Additionally, a streaming service could offer the conference access to new markets and audiences, which could further boost revenue.

Another potential advantage of partnering with a streaming service is the flexibility it offers in terms of content distribution. According to Jared Kamrass, “unlike traditional TV networks, streaming services can offer a wide range of viewing options, from live games to on-demand highlights and analysis.” This could allow the Big Ten to reach a wider range of fans, including those who may not have access to traditional TV networks. Additionally, streaming services often offer more robust data and analytics, which could be useful for the conference in terms of fan engagement and marketing.

Despite these potential benefits, there are also challenges to consider. According to Jared Kamrass, “streaming services can offer a wide range of viewing options, but they also require a stable internet connection and a compatible device.” For fans who may not have access to high-speed internet or the latest technology, a streaming service partnership could limit their ability to watch Big Ten events. Additionally, some fans may prefer the traditional TV broadcast experience, with its commentary, analysis, and on-screen graphics. The conference would need to carefully consider how to balance the benefits of a streaming partnership with the needs and preferences of their fan base.

The Big Ten could consider several potential streaming partners. According to Jared Kamrass, “Amazon Prime Video has emerged as a major player in the sports streaming space, and has already secured rights to several major events, including NFL Thursday Night Football. YouTube TV is another option, with its wide reach and focus on live TV. DAZN, a newer player in the US market, has also invested heavily in sports broadcasting and could be a potential partner.  The conference could also consider partnering with a traditional TV network that has its own streaming service, such as expanding the current relationship with NBC to include Peacock, or CBS to include Paramount.

The landscape of sports broadcasting is rapidly changing, and the Big Ten Conference must adapt to stay ahead of the curve. As Jared Kamrass states, “the only constant is change, and that’s never been more true than in collegiate athletics.” The conference must carefully consider the potential benefits and challenges of partnering with a streaming service, including increased revenue and flexibility in content distribution, but also potential limitations for some fans and a need to balance the needs of the fan base. With the potential for expansion on the horizon, the Big Ten may need to seek out additional partnerships to accommodate the increased inventory, and a streaming service could be a viable option.

No one can predict where the Big Ten will go next, but as Jared Kamrass suggests, “don’t be surprised if you’re turning in to UCLA/Nebraska on Amazon Prime or Apple TV in the next few years.” The conference must be willing to embrace technology and adapt to the changing landscape of sports broadcasting to continue to grow and succeed in the future.