ESPN, SEC Ink 10-Year Rights Deal; Top Football Package Shifts From CBS to ABC in 2024
The agreement builds on existing deal to make ESPN the exclusive rightsholder of the SEC
ESPN and the Southeastern Conference (SEC) have inked a new 10-year agreement beginning in 2024-25 that will see the conference’s top football package of 15 premier games shift from CBS to ABC and include eight marquee men’s basketball matchups each year across ESPN or ABC. Combined with ESPN’s separate existing 23-year agreement, the deal makes ESPN the exclusive rightsholder of the SEC with every SEC football and men’s basketball game to be carried on an ESPN network (including ABC). ESPN is paying in the low $300 million range annually (according to SBJ) on top of its previous arrangement – more than six times the $55 million per year fee that CBS currently pays the SEC.
SEC on ABC Kicks Off in 2024, ESPN Gains Schedule Flexibility
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, ensuring some of the biggest games in the conference each year are featured in primetime.
This means top rivalries like Alabama vs. Auburn and Florida vs. Georgia will air on ABC beginning in 2024 along with the SEC Football Championship, which will now air on ABC in the late afternoon each season. The week prior to the SEC Football Championship, ESPN or ABC will feature an annual late afternoon Thanksgiving Friday SEC game.
With ABC added to the arsenal of SEC football outlets, along with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and SEC Network, ESPN will maximize the SEC’s exposure and reach while simultaneously serving the fans and conference member schools. As a pillar of this strategy, the conference’s top matchup each week will no longer be locked into the late afternoon window and instead, ESPN will have flexibility to position such games in the window and on the network that best maximizes exposure.
In addition to ABC and ESPN+, football games will remain on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU via a mix of early afternoon, late afternoon and primetime windows, and a full, robust slate of games will air on SEC Network each fall. With the addition of the SEC Football Championship, ESPN will carry all 20 conference championships each year.
Among the championships, the complete coverage of both men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments is included following a regular season where north of 450 regular season games are available each year.
ESPN+ Adds Football, Hoops Rights; ESPN Now Has Nearly 2,000 Events
As part of the deal, ESPN+ will have the right to stream one non-conference football game and two non-conference men’s basketball games per SEC school each season. In total, ESPN+ will carry up to 14 non-conference football games and up to 20 non-conference men’s basketball games annually. The SEC becomes the latest conference to be added to the ESPN+ lineup, which now includes a total of 20 conferences and thousands of college games each year.
Men’s Basketball and Nearly 2,000 Total Events
With the addition of approximately eight high-profile games per year, starting in the 2024-25 season, every SEC men’s basketball game will air across ESPN networks, including the right to put SEC basketball games on ABC. The new agreement will be co-terminus with the separate, existing 20-year agreement between ESPN and the SEC that also runs through 2033-34 and sees ESPN carry more than 1,950 SEC games each year across the conference’s 21 sports on ESPN networks and SEC Network.
“This new agreement was born from a strong foundation which began almost 25 years ago and now reflects a shared vision of the future with the SEC, Commissioner Sankey and their member institutions” said Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “With all the conference’s games under the ESPN umbrella and adding ABC and ESPN+ to our distribution channels, ESPN will have complete scheduling flexibility, resulting in maximum exposure and adding significant benefits for SEC schools and fans.”
“This is a significant day for the Southeastern Conference and for the future of our member institutions. Our agreement with ESPN will greatly enhance our ability to support our student-athletes in the years ahead and to further enrich the game day experience for SEC fans around the world,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “One of our primary goals was to improve the television scheduling process in ways that will benefit our students, coaches, alumni and fans,” Sankey added. “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.”
Evolution Media Capital (EMC), an affiliate of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), served as the media advisor to the SEC.