HomeBasketballNCAA and ESPN ink $920m, 8-year deal for exclusive championship rights

NCAA and ESPN ink $920m, 8-year deal for exclusive championship rights

NCAA and ESPN ink $920m, 8-year deal for exclusive championship rights

The NCAA and ESPN have revealed a groundbreaking $920 million, eight-year agreement, securing the network’s exclusive broadcasting rights for 40 championships – most notably including the Division I women’s basketball tournament.

The accord marks a significant shift, addressing previous criticisms of undervaluing the increasingly popular women’s March Madness tournament.

NCAA President Charlie Baker disclosed to The Associated Press that the deal boasts an average annual value of $115 million, signifying a remarkable increase of over 300 percent compared to the previous 14-year arrangement with ESPN. Baker emphasised that while it’s a bundled deal, the enlarged package promises superior coverage and benefits.

“Yes, it’s a bundle, but it’s a bigger bundle and it’s a bigger bundle that will be much better,” Baker said.

The comprehensive agreement encompasses 21 women’s and 19 men’s sports, expanding coverage to include tennis, track and field, men’s gymnastics, women’s Division II and III volleyball and basketball championships, and the men’s DII and DIII basketball championships.

Key highlights of the deal include the guarantee that national championship events in Division I women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, women’s gymnastics, and FCS (the second tier of Division I football) will be aired on ABC, although specific start times are not guaranteed. Additionally, ESPN will broadcast selection shows for at least 10 championships on its linear networks.

Baker was confident with their decision to stay with ESPN and spurn several interested parties, trusting that ESPN will continue to expand on the deal.

“I do believe this was the best deal that was available,” Baker added.

NCAA’s media consultant, Endeavor’s IMG and WME Sports, estimates that approximately 57 percent of the deal’s value, equating to $65 million annually, is linked to the women’s March Madness tournament, whose popularity has surged, setting viewership records in recent years.

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro expressed the network’s commitment to an extension of exclusivity and acquiring additional rights. Discussions within the NCAA membership are underway to explore the possibility of creating performance units that reward conferences for success in the women’s tournament, akin to those in the men’s tournament.

Notably, the rights to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament remain with CBS and Warner Brothers Discovery, with a deal valued at about $900 million per year through 2032.

“From Day 1, we made it very clear to Charlie and team that we were interested in an extension on the exclusivity side as well as the fact that we were interested in acquiring more rights, not less,” Pitaro commented.

This deal follows the NCAA’s response to criticism of gender equity issues in 2021’s single-site basketball tournaments, prompting an external review. The Kaplan report suggested the consideration of unbundling the women’s basketball tournament, estimating its value at $81 to $112 million annually starting in 2025. Endeavor executives Hillary Mandel and Karen Brodkin dismissed these estimates as unrealistic, emphasising ESPN’s comprehensive package as the optimal choice.

“We thought that there was a lot of flaws in that report,” Brodkin told the AP.

“We think that every media partner we’ve ever spoken to thought that when it came out, they didn’t change their mind at any point in time, notwithstanding their interest in the property or properties.”

Mandel added, “It’s important to know that the exercise was done, and it was looked at and they were open to (unbundling) and there were no sacred cows in this whatsoever. And where they landed is because ESPN came up with the best package for the women’s basketball championship.”

Media consultant Patrick Crakes expressed scepticism about the standalone value of the women’s tournament in a changing media landscape but acknowledges ESPN’s multi-platform approach as the logical choice.

“This is worth more to ESPN as a bundle than it would be if the women’s basketball tournament was probably broken out and offered to fill in the blank (network),” Crakes stated.

“Where’s it going to go? There’s not a lot of programming windows available for it. Who’s going to program that and pay?”

The deal was negotiated exclusively with ESPN and never entered the open market, reflecting a more conservative approach in the evolving media landscape.

Image credit: MGoBlog

Share With:
Rate This Article
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.