ESPN snared a massive rights deal with the Southeastern Conference that will put some of the nation’s most popular college-football games on the Disney sports-media giant or its sister broadcast network ABC, an agreement that sees the annual value of the games soar more than 440%.
The deal is valued at around $300 million a year, according to people familiar with the matter, and will ensure that, starting in 2024, every SEC football and basketball game airs on a TV network owned by Disney. ESPN already had a longstanding deal with the SEC, but CBS had first choice of games during its more than two-decade association with the college conference. ESPN’s new ten-year pact could be valued at around $3 billion over its entire term. CBS had been estimated to be paying $55 million each year for the rights.
“With all the conference’s games under the ESPN umbrella and adding ABC and ESPN Plus to our distribution channels, ESPN will have complete scheduling flexibility, resulting in maximum exposure and adding significant benefits for SEC schools and fans,” said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN, in a prepared statement.
Under terms of the pact and one that ESPN already had with the conference, the sports networks will carry more than 1,950 SEC games each year across the conference’s 21 sports on ESPN networks and SEC Network. Both will end after the 2033-2034 season.
What’s more, ABC will air an SEC-controlled football game each week beginning in 2024, including a regular late-afternoon kickoff. In addition, ESPN will have the ability to feature marquee SEC games on ABC’s “Saturday Night Football” for the first time. The SEC Football Championship will air on ABC in the late afternoon each season.
“One of our primary goals was to improve the television scheduling process in ways that will benefit our students, coaches, alumni and fans,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, in a statement. “By working in collaboration with ESPN, we were able to secure an agreement that includes more lead time for many game time announcements, and in many ways modernizes the college football scheduling process.”
The deal also gives the company the right to put SEC basketball games on ABC.