ESPN, CBS and FOX Sports are shelling out $2.64 billion over the next six years to the Big Ten NCAA college football conference, triple the amount they're currently paying, according to Recode, which cited a Sports Business Journal report.
For its part, ESPN will chip in $1.14 billion (or $190 million per year) for about half the conference's media rights, according to Sports Business Journal.
As Recode pointed out, ESPN's willingness to spend big on Big Ten sports is notable considering ESPN's recent string of subscriber losses and the idea that an ESPN that is bleeding subscribers will be less likely to fork over huge amounts of money for broadcast rights.
ESPN and ESPN 2 have lost more than 1.5 million subscribers from February through May of 2016, according to Nielsen data. That means ESPN has lost about 10 million subscribers since 2013.
Despite the large-scale subscriber losses, ESPN has managed to stay in the black. During Disney's first-quarter earnings call, ESPN's parent company reported ESPN grew revenue by 4 percent in the first quarter. But analysts including Barclays have said the revenue growth was too low and driven by rate increases, not subscriber growth.
ESPN's struggle to retain customers has led the sports network to go after skinny bundle offerings from pay-TV providers like Verizon. Verizon and ESPN recently settled a suit brought by ESPN after the network accused Verizon's Custom TV of "unfairly depriving" it of benefits by relegating it to a sports add-on tier.
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