In a year of chasing money across the collegiate athletic landscape, the university held a unique position: The money came to them, and with it, they preserved independence through 2029.
In November, Notre Dame and NBC extended their media rights deal through 2029, making it the longest-running college sports media partnership with a singular outlet. The deal is expected to provide the Irish $50 million annually, as reported by The Athletic.
It is hard to imagine a singular school being paid $50 million a year for a season that consists of only six home games, but both Notre Dame and NBC found themselves in a unique spot, making this deal all the more worthwhile.
While every program is determined to find a new home in a realigning college football world — whether that be the Big Ten or SEC or even the ACC or Big 12 — Notre Dame is one of the only programs that can survive without a conference at all. By signing with NBC, Notre Dame could retain their independence.
In order to stay competitive with the top football programs in the country, the Fighting Irish needed a paycheck within the range of the Big Ten’s most recent media deal, which grants member schools around $70 million annually.
So then how is $50 million a competitive agreement? The answer lies in addition. Notre Dame also receives $17 million (according to their recent tax filings) from the ACC coming out of their media deals as part of the ACC scheduling agreement. The initial $50 million, plus the additional $17 million, places Notre Dame at an astonishing $67 million they are set to make annually, only $3 million off the pace set by the Big Ten.
Notre Dame knew that if they wanted the paycheck they had been hoping for, it would have to be sooner rather than later. In response to the Big Ten’s own NBC deal, as well as what was set to be a year loaded with sports media deals, NBC and Notre Dame negotiated a new contract despite having a year before their original negotiating window was supposed to open.
For NBC, paying $50 million a year might seem unbelievable, but they see the Irish as a way to attract viewers and build an already expansive sports lineup.
This season, Notre Dame was the sixth most-watched program in college football, averaging 4.2 million viewers per game, according to the Notre Dame Football PR Team. Also, the Irish were one of just six teams across the college football landscape not to have a singular game dip below 1.4 million viewers.
NBC and Notre Dame had a record year together. NBC’s broadcasts of the Irish averaged 5.1 million viewers through five games, the most since 2005. NBC also saw its largest college football audience in 30 years during the Notre Dame-Ohio State matchup on Sept. 23, 2023.
When NBC contracts with one of college football’s most prominent brands, it brings in viewers consistently and allows the network to sell advertisement space. NBC also sees Notre Dame as an exclusive lead-in game to their new offering: the Big Ten “game of the week,” which often holds a primetime slot in the weekly college football television lineup.
NBC can place Notre Dame as the afternoon lead-in to this nighttime contest, allowing Notre Dame to play in their preferred afternoon time slot. The hope is that Irish fans won’t switch the channel when their game ends but rather stay on the same network to watch the next game coming up. ESPN has mastered a similar system of using earlier games to attract viewers for later contests.
NBC also receives a slew of content for their streaming service Peacock, with the continued broadcast of home Notre Dame hockey games and an upcoming behind-the-scenes documentary of the football team. They hope to market their exclusive service as a must-have for Notre Dame fans.
For Notre Dame and NBC, this deal could not have come at a better time as they look to continue their successes and become mainstays within the college football television landscape.