The Bristol-based network has been the Big East's partner since 1979, the year both entities were born. But the Big East has undergone drastic changes through conference realignment and the conference's TV/media value has plummeted.
Media reports have placed the NBC offer at anywhere from $20 million to $25 million a year. The Big East accepted the proposal from NBC last week and the conference reportedly reached a deal with CBS on a second-tier package for basketball, worth between $2 million and $3 million a year.
ESPN had until Thursday to match NBC's offer and the network issued a statement in the afternoon saying the sides were talking. But SportsBusiness Daily, citing "several well-placed sources," said ESPN agreed to match the offer and the sides are working on details concerning how many games the network will televise. ESPN.com reported Thursday night that the sides were finalizing a $130 million deal.
The ESPN deal requires approval by the Big East presidents, which could come this weekend.
NBC was looking for programming for its fledgling NBC Sports Network and offered the Big East exposure on both the cable network and the primary network, although the value of the pitch was less than the conference's expiring deal with ESPN (about $33 million a year). The Big East rejected an offer from ESPN for about $150 million a year in 2011, before the conference lost West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville and Rutgers.
The current deal is expected to produce just under $2 million a year for each Big East member, depending on the size of the conference in the future. The conference is slated to have 11 football members in 2015, with a possible 12th member added.
Under the expiring TV deal, football members such as UConn reportedly received just over $3 million in media revenue.
Commissioner Mike Aresco told The Courant Tuesday that the conference is "financially very sound" thanks to exit fees and plans for a marketing boost. Aresco said the conference chose a shorter-term TV deal of six years with the hope of establishing itself and negotiating a more prosperous deal in the coming years.
Aresco added that the conference valued exposure over multiple platforms in the next media deal. He said the Big East was aiming to offer games on multiple networks.
The SportsBusiness Daily report also cited sources as saying ESPN may sub-license a "significant amount of games to other networks, such as Fox Sports." Fox Sports, which is launching the all-sports Fox Sport 1 this summer, had negotiated with the Big East in the fall.