It’s only a matter of time before Ohio State will play a football game that’s only available on Peacock, but Gene Smith doesn’t expect that to be in 2023.
Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State already know they will play a game broadcast only by Peacock this fall, as the Big Ten announced last week that the Wolverines’ season opener against East Carolina, Nittany Lions’ second game against Delaware and Spartans’ Week 3 non-conference game against Washington will all be exclusive to the NBC-backed streaming platform.
The Big Ten’s new TV deal stipulates that eight football games each year will be exclusive to Peacock, which means there will still be five more to-be-determined Big Ten games this season that air only on the streaming platform. That said, the two Ohio State games that were seen as the most likely candidates for a Peacock game this year – its non-conference games against Youngstown State and Western Kentucky – have already been scheduled for Big Ten Network and FOX, respectively.
Ohio State still has six conference games for which TV networks have yet to be announced (Maryland, Purdue, Penn State, Wisconsin, Rutgers and Minnesota), so the possibility of the Buckeyes playing a Peacock-only game this season still can’t be ruled out. But it would catch Ohio State’s athletic director by surprise if that happens at this point.
He does expect several of Ohio State’s men’s basketball games to be exclusive to Peacock this year, though, as the Big Ten’s new TV deal allows for up to 47 games each year (32 conference games and 15 non-conference games) to be broadcast exclusively on the streaming platform.
“Don't anticipate it happening in football this year. Might it happen in basketball? Sure,” Smith told Eleven Warriors during an exclusive interview on this week’s Real Pod Wednesdays. “A large majority of our contests will be linear, but you know, we might end up with some Peacock games in basketball. So we have to be ready for that.”
While Ohio State already had some early-season non-conference men’s basketball games in past years that were only available via streaming on Big Ten Plus, the Peacock deal makes it likely the Buckeyes will also play conference games that are not available on linear television.
The football Buckeyes being only available to watch via streaming will be a first – at least since all Ohio State football games have been broadcast live – when it eventually happens, presumably in 2024. Smith recognizes that will create challenges for Ohio State fans, particularly those who live in areas where high-speed Internet still isn’t readily available.
“I worry about it, like everyone,” Smith said. “There's certain parts of Ohio, where Wi-Fi’s a challenge, where streaming’s a challenge. But at least people know that those games are coming and they can plan for them.”
Smith also felt, though, that the time was right for the Big Ten to incorporate a streaming package into its media rights. As more and more sports leagues begin to make at least some of their media rights streaming-exclusive – the NFL, for example, will have a Wild Card playoff game exclusive to Peacock this season as well as its weekly Thursday night regular-season games on Amazon Prime Video – Smith believes the Peacock deal will allow the Big Ten to dip its toes into streaming while still keeping the majority of its games on broadcast networks or cable television.
“We had to get into it to some degree. We were not going into it wholesale, but we have to get into it,” Smith said. “And so I think having a platform like NBC, for a linear partner, and then they control the Peacock part of it, gives us a chance to test the waters in that. And so I'm excited about it.”
As Smith acknowledged, it’s also likely Ohio State will have non-conference road games that are broadcast exclusively on streaming platforms in the future as other conferences make their own media rights deals. With the Pac-12’s current media rights deal set to expire next year, there has been speculation that a majority of the Pac-12’s games could be only available via streaming after this season.
“As we play across conferences, we need to be aware that there may be some conferences where that's the majority of their television deal,” Smith said. “If you go out West, that might be it.”