ESPN and the SEC officially unveiled a 10-year media deal that moves the conference’s highly-rated 15-game premium football package from CBS to ABC starting in 2024.
The agreement runs through the 2033-34 season, with sources saying that ESPN is paying in the low $300 million range annually, on top of their previous arrangement. That figure is more than six times the $55 million per year fee that CBS currently pays the conference.
The deal, which SBJ first reported on Dec. 20, 2019, ensures that every SEC football and men’s basketball game will air on ABC or an ESPN network.
As part of the package, ABC will carry an SEC football game in a late afternoon window on Saturdays starting in 2024. That game will be branded as ”SEC on ABC.” The deal also allows ABC to schedule SEC games on its “Saturday Night Football” series and gives ABC rights to the SEC Championship game every year.
The deal also includes rights to an additional eight top men’s basketball games per year. The new deal will end at the same time as the 20-year rights deal ESPN signed with the conference in 2013.
ESPN platforms now will house all SEC content for the next decade, including the ESPN-owned SEC Network and ESPN+. The deal originally was planned to be announced back in March, but the pandemic spoiled plans for an announcement timed around the SEC men’s basketball tournament.
“One of our primary goals through this agreement was to improve the television scheduling process in ways that benefit our student athletes, our fans, alums, people around our programs,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told SBJ. “Rather than trying to adapt on six days or 12 days, people can plan their travel accordingly, and our athletics departments can plan their presentation, their marketing, what groups they want to engage around those games.”
Disney Chair of ESPN and Sports Content Jimmy Pitaro told SBJ, “We’ve had a very long successful partnership with the Southeastern Conference, that actually goes back to 1996. … We’re not just expanding that partnership, but in my opinion, we’re completing that partnership as the exclusive media rights holder for all SEC sports.”
CBS still has exclusive broadcast rights for the first pick of SEC football games each week for the next three years and it looks unlikely that ESPN will be able to get those rights early. “CBS continues to be an important partner for the SEC,” Sankey said. “We’ve been reminded of that in 2020. We have three football seasons remaining on our agreement. We’ll work to make sure that we keep that relationship at the most healthy way possible.”
Nearly every ESPN deal these days includes some sort of streaming component, and this deal is no different. Beginning with the 2021-22 season, ESPN+ picks up the rights to one non-conference football game and two non-conference men’s basketball games per team per season. “That’s not necessarily to say that that’s what’s going to happen, but we have the ability to do that if we and the conference align,” Pitaro said. He added that the ESPN+ part of the deal “was a really important element and another driving force behind getting this deal done.”