ESPN Inks New Multi-Year Agreement With Liberty University for Football Media Rights
Liberty Athletics and ESPN have reached a new five-year extension for the exclusive media rights to Liberty’s home football games, beginning with the 2021 season through 2025. Liberty inked its first football media rights agreement with ESPN in 2018 during the Flames’ first season at the FBS level.
This new agreement ensures that all Liberty home football games will air on an ESPN platform while guaranteeing that one game each year will air on an ESPN linear network. ESPN also has the right to choose a non-traditional day (non-Saturday) for a second linear network telecast, with all remaining games distributed on an ESPN digital platform.
“We are pleased to continue to showcase Liberty home football games exclusively on ESPN platforms in the years ahead through this multi-year extension of our rights agreement which began in 2018,” says Dan Margulis, senior director of programming and acquisitions, ESPN. “The recent success of the Flames has made them one of the more intriguing programs in college football the past few seasons.”
During Liberty’s historic 2020 season, ESPN elevated three of the Flames’ six home telecasts to linear networks (Sept. 26 vs. FIU on ESPNU, Oct. 10 vs. ULM on ESPN2 and Nov. 14 vs. Western Carolina on ESPNU).
This new multi-year agreement is coterminous with Liberty’s bowl agreement with ESPN Events, which runs through the 2025 season.
Liberty’s 2021 season begins with home games against Campbell on Sept. 4 and Old Dominion (Sept. 18) – both of which will air on ESPN3, followed by matchups against Middle Tennessee (Oct. 9), UMass (Oct. 30), Louisiana (Nov. 20) and Army (Nov. 27) at Williams Stadium. Liberty is anticipating full capacity at Williams Stadium for the 2021 season.
“We are extremely grateful to have such a strong relationship with ESPN,” says Liberty Director of Athletics Ian McCaw. “ESPN platforms afford Liberty the best opportunity to tell our story of the fastest rising college football program in the country to Flames Nation and beyond.”
Additionally, as part of the new agreement, Liberty’s award-winning 30-minute weekly sports show Flames Central will be available via ESPN digital platforms and the ESPN App.
The show recently won two NATAS Emmy awards from the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) and has brought home a total of 10 NATAS Emmy awards in the last seven years.
Liberty has produced extensive coverage of Liberty Athletics distributed on ESPN digital platforms for nearly a decade, including more than 225 events the last two years.
A unique aspect of this agreement with ESPN is that Liberty’s own Broadcast Communications team produces content that is carried on ESPN digital platforms for each home game.
This award-winning team will continue to produce the Flames’ Countdown to Kickoff before each home game. The pregame show features Rett McGibbon and former Flames standouts running back Des Rice and wide receiver Pat Kelly. Matt Warner, Joe Jauch and Emily Austen return to the booth to provide Flames Nation with the best analysis and insight during the game from Williams Stadium.
Last year, Liberty had a season of “firsts” in 2020, including the team’s first-ever national ranking, first win over an ACC opponent, the best start in school history (8-0 to start 2020), first-ever win over a top-25 FBS program and back-to-back bowl game wins.