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Sweet Sweet Independence - How The Notre Dame/NBC Deal Alters College Football Media Landscape

Written by Connor Regan|Writer|Twitter/X: @thatconnorregan


The Notre Dame-NBC Deal - What It Means For The Future

NBC-Universal and Notre Dame football recently reached a historic media rights renewal through the 2029 season, extending the relationship to nearly 40 years. In 1990, Notre Dame was the first college football team to leave the 64-member College Football Association television deal, shaking the foundations of the college football broadcasting system. 

The Irish became the nation's only college football team to have their own exclusive media rights deal with a major network provider, and remain so to this day. While conferences like the BIG10 and the SEC command significant compensation for their media rights as package deals, Notre Dame manages to do so on its own, without the backing or constraints of a conference. 


Although many of the specifics and financial details of the contract renewal have yet to be made public, there's significant belief that Notre Dame will roughly double the value of their current deal. Notre Dame fans should expect an expanded media experience, exclusive programming, and a more streamlined presentation, along with their hefty paycheck. To better understand where this new deal can take the Fighting Irish in the future, we must examine the history behind this unique relationship.





History of The Deal - 1991-Present

  • Notre Dame and NBC signed the first exclusive collegiate football broadcasting agreement, making NBC the home of 6 home games a season.

  • 5 years, covering the 1991 through 1995 seasons. 

  • The contract was reportedly worth $35 million- $7 million/season.

  • 5 years, covering the 1996 through 2000 seasons. 

  • The contract was reportedly worth $38 million - $7.6 million/season.

1997 - 2nd Extension

  • 5 years, covering the 2001 through 2005 seasons. 

  • The contract was reportedly worth $40 million- $8 million/ season.

  • 5 years, covering the 2006 through 2010 seasons. 

  • The contract was reportedly worth $45 million- $9 million/ season.

  • The Shamrock Series neutral site games are added to the deal.

  • 5 years, covering the 2011 through 2015 seasons. 

  • The contract was reportedly worth $60 million- $12 million/ season.

  • 5 years, covering the 2016 through 2025 seasons. 

  • The contract was reportedly worth approximately $150 million - an average of $15 million/ season.

  • This contract was apparently backloaded, and Notre Dame is said to be making approximately $22 million/year recently.

  • 4 years, covering the 2026 through 2029 seasons. 

  • The contract is believed to be worth approximately $200 million, roughly $50 million/ season.


Notre Dame's Recent Viewership

Over the last few seasons, the Irish have found themselves consistently within the top 10 of national viewership averages, along with a top-7 most viewed game each of the last 3 seasons. In 2023, the Irish posted 4 games with viewership totals of over 5 million and produced the 2nd most-viewed game in NBC history with their heartbreaking loss against Ohio State. Despite dropping from 6th to 8th in national viewership from 2022 to 2023, the Irish increased their average viewership from 3.30 million to 3.46 million. Notre Dame's viewership and matchup quality continue to get better each year. 


  • 12 Game Average Viewership - 2.84 Million - 9th Nationally

  • Peacock Exclusive - Notre Dame V. Toledo

  • Highest Game Viewership

  • 7th Most Watched - Notre Dame @ Florida State - 7.75 Million

  • 23rd Most Watched - Notre Dame V. Wisconsin - 5.37 Million

  • 12 Game Average Viewership - 3.30 Million - 6th Nationally

  • Peacock Exclusive - Notre Dame V. UNLV

  • Highest Game Viewership 2021

  • 5th Most Watched - Notre Dame @ Ohio State - 10.53 Million

  • 13th Most Watched - Notre Dame @ USC - 6.68 Million

  • 12 Game Average Viewership - 3.46 Million - 8th Nationally

  • Peacock Exclusive - Notre Dame V. Central Michigan

  • Highest Game Viewership 2021

  • 3rd Most Watched - Notre Dame V. Ohio State - 9.98 Million

  • This became NBC's 2nd most-viewed game of all time, behind the 1993 "Game of The Century" against Florida State, which had 22 Million viewers. The Irish won 31-24.

  • 20th Most Watched - Notre Dame V. USC - 6.43 Million

  • 28th Most Watched - Notre Dame @ Duke - 5.32 Million

  • 31st Most Watched - Notre Dame @ Louisville - 5.12 Million





Amongst The Most Profitable College Football Programs

As of 2022, Notre Dame ranks as the 5th most profitable program in all of college football, bringing in approximately $54 million/year after all expenses. 

The Irish were only beaten out by 

1. Texas ($98 Million)

2. Tennessee ($70 Million)

3. LSU ($58 Million)

4. Michigan ($56 Million)

Notre Dame did rank ahead of powerhouses like 

6. Georgia (50 Million)

7. Ohio State ($50 Million)

8. Oklahoma ($48 million)

9. Auburn ($47 million)

10. Alabama (46 Million)

11. Oregon ($40 Million) 

12. Florida State ($39 Million)

Notre Dame's 5th place rank is largely due to the revenue from their uniquely exclusive media rights deal with NBC. This data is based on Notre Dame's current deal, and once the new one takes effect in 2026, they may jump up as far as 3rd.



The Deal

With the SEC and BIG 10 making between $60-80 Million a year per team, Notre Dame looked to strike a deal within about $10-15 million of them, according to The Athletic's Pete Sampson. This would put Notre Dame's terms around $50 million/year. If this is what Notre Dame did indeed negotiate for itself, it would put them right in the middle of the current 4 conferences based on revenue, behind the BIG 10 and SEC but ahead of the BIG 12 and the ACC. 

Even without knowing the financial specifics, Notre Dame seems pleased with the results, with Jack Swarbrick saying, "We are thrilled to continue our historic collaboration with our partners at NBC Sports." The sentiment was shared by NBC, as new NBC Sports president Rick Cordella commented, "There is no better tradition than Notre Dame football in South Bend, and we are thrilled to keep that tradition within the NBC Sports family as we extend our relationship as the exclusive home of Fighting Irish home games through the end of the decade."


BIG10

SEC

Notre Dame

BIG12

ACC

Fox, CBS, and NBC

Leaving CBS for ESPN 

NBC

ESPN & Fox

ESPN/ACC Network

Signed in 2022

Signed in 2022

Signed 2023

Signed in 2022

Signed in 2016

2023 through 2029

2024 through 2033

2026-2029

2025 through 2030 season

2017 through 2036

7 years / $7 Billion

10 years / $3 Billion 

4 years / (Potentially) $200 Million

6 years / $2.28 Billion

20 years / (Potentially) $11.2 Billion

Approx., $80-100 Million/year/team

Approx. $55-75 Million/team/year

Approx. $50 Million/Year

Approx. $30-35 Million/team/year

Approx. $35-40 Million/team/year

Approx. $13.3-16.6 Million/ Home Game 

Approx. $9.1-12.5 Million/ Home Game

Approx. $8.3 Million/Home Game

Approx. $5-5.8 Million/Home Game

Approx. $5.8-6.6 Million/Home Game


Peacock

Since 2021, Peacock has been the exclusive home of one Notre Dame home game per season, which will continue under the new agreement. Peacock is currently available in two plans: "Premium" for $5.99/month or "Premium Plus" with no ads for $11.99/month. Because of this, the Peacock-exclusive games have been a divisive topic amongst Notre Dame fans. In addition to the one Peacock exclusive game, Peacock will apparently also retain the rights to simultaneously stream the rest of the home games alongside the regular NBC broadcast. The 2023-24 season will be the 11th season of Notre Dame hockey coverage, and Peacock will continue to stream all 21 home games as a part of the deal.

As for the home game broadcasts, Notre Dame will maintain their usual 2:30-3:30 pm afternoon timeslot on NBC, alongside their occasional prime-time evening matchups. Perhaps the most unique part of the new deal was the addition of a Peacock exclusive "Hard Knocks" style documentary series, chronicling the Irish team's season-long journey each year. Lastly, Peacock will become the home to the annual Blue-Gold Game and Notre Dame's Pro Day.





NBC & The BIG 10

Over the last few years, Notre Dame made it clear to NBC that they wished for the Irish to maintain their exclusive partnership and featured standing on the network but wanted NBC to expand their college football footprint. In 2022, NBC announced they were part of a deal to acquire BIG 10 football broadcasting rights from 2023 through 2029. NBC will reportedly pay roughly $350 million/year for 15-16 games. Swarbrick recently commented on the deal in 2022, saying, "We need NBC to have more college football to more effectively promote our games and to talk about our games and to have NBC be seen in that light. So that was great for us that (NBC) got a big piece of this." In 2023, Peacock streamed 21 BIG 10 games; 13 were steamed on both NBC and Peacock, while 8 were Peacock exclusive streams. 

With the opportunity to see the NBC-BIG 10 deal play out over the 2023 season, Swarbrick and Notre Dame waited to strike their deal, with the outgoing athletic director admitting, "That was an important part of our decision, the fact that NBC acquired more college football rights. We were on a bit of an island." With the addition of the BIG 10 games, NBC will have a prime-time college football product to broadcast even when the Irish are playing an away game, helping to make the network a more significant staple in the college football consciousness. Ultimately, this will only help Notre Dame achieve increased media exposure. 


"Irish Knocks"

Jack Swarbrick confirmed that beginning with the 2024 season, Notre Dame football and NBC's "Peacock" streaming service will produce an annual "season-long documentary, their own version of (HBO's hit series) 'Hard Knocks' over the coming years, and have their own tile/channel on Peacock" per Fox Sports' Bryan Fischer. Swarbrick reported the show would debut in 2024, but it's currently unclear when it will specifically premiere. This will be Notre Dame's attempt to provide a similar level of real-life access but with more of a personal touch than last time. For Notre Dame, the continued partnership with NBC will ensure their project oversight, guiding the show to act as a promotion and advertisement for the University while making sure it reflects positively on its players and the University as a whole. Despite a somewhat sanitized product, we may get the chance to see how the lives of college players have changed in the face of things like NIL, the transfer portal, and the brand-new 12-team CFP format.


ACC Money

Notre Dame's agreement with the ACC is not the most popular decision among Irish fans, but there are several reasons Notre Dame's upper brass made the move. Firstly, the Irish are contracted to play 5-6 rotating ACC games each year. 70 games remain on the agreement, with matchups scheduled through the 2037 season. From this deal, Notre Dame will bring in approximately $17 million yearly between the 5-6 football games and all other Notre Dame ACC sports. Football alone is said to pay around $12 million/year. The ACC money, combined with the astronomical $50 million/year the new deal is said to pay, allows Notre Dame to remain comfortably independent amidst conference realignment. The almost $70 million/year would give Notre Dame the 2nd most lucrative TV rights in college football, behind only the BIG 10.


New Athletic Director/New President

On June 8th, 2023, Father John Jenkins announced Peter Bevacqua as Notre Dame's 13th Athletic Director and Jack Swarbrick's successor. Bevacqua, a 1993 alumnus and now former NBC Sports chairman, joined the University as the Special Assistant to the President for Athletics on July 1st, 2023. In this role, Bevacqua has had a chance to work with and learn directly from Swarbrick, as well as aid in the NBC contract renewal negotiations. Swarbrick and Bevacqua have a long history of working together, primarily due to Bevacqua's time as NBC Sports Chairman, and his appointment bolsters the future of the relationship between both sides. Although a changing of the guard for Notre Dame, it's abundantly clear this likely won't be the last contract renewal we will see. Look out for negotiations regarding the next renewal to start swirling in 2028.


Independence 

Above all else, Notre Dame was looking to ensure its ability to remain an independent entity in the face of several drastic conference realignments. To help ensure this independence moving forward, Jack Swarbrick pursued a successor committed to that identity. "I think my successor has the same view as I do. If he has a career comparable to mine, it'll be at least that long," Swarbrick said via Brandon Marcello. As a Notre Dame Alumnus and former chair of NBC Sports, Bevacqua knows the value of Notre Dame's unique position within the college football landscape. "I'm a fan of independence, for sure," Bevacqua told Sports Illustrated. "It's another element of what makes Notre Dame different. I think those differentiators for Notre Dame are more important and more valuable today than they've ever been." Additionally, the recent and new wave of record-high TV deals for the SEC and BIG10 primed the market for Notre Dame to take advantage of. "We wanted to know what the market was, and it was very flattering, to be honest," said Jack Swarbrick. (Bryan Fischer - Dec 6th).


Going Forward

If Notre Dame football can continue their exclusive media rights deal, maintain their growing national viewership, continue to bring in around $12 million/year from the ACC, ensure Bevacqua builds off of Swarbrick's success, and maintain access to the new expanded 12-team College Football Playoff, they can survive realignment yet again, and flourish as the nation's premier independent program. Deals like this are why Notre Dame fans scoff when Power Conference teams suggest the Irish must join a conference to survive.


2 Comments


Guest
Dec 24, 2023

This TV deal will keep Notre Dame from winning the national championship

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Connor Regan
Connor Regan
Dec 24, 2023
Replying to

Why do you say that??

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