ESPN, CBS Sports Secure Multi-Year Conference USA Carriage Deal

Running back Tavares Thomas #18 of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders carries the ball against Western Kentucky at L.T. Smith Stadium on November 17, 2017 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Conference USA rivals Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky during a 2017 game. (Image credit: Shaban Athuman/Getty Images)

ESPN and CBS Sports have reached long-term distribution deals with Conference USA, which features a mid-week schedule for the college conference's October football games beginning in 2023.

The deal calls for CBS Sports Network to air 18 of C-USA's college football and college basketball games annually, along with televising the conference’s football, men’s college basketball semifinal and championship games, the women’s basketball championship game as well as baseball and softball championship games.

“Conference USA has been a key partner for nearly two decades and we are pleased to extend our longstanding relationship,” CBS Sports Executive VP of Programming Dan Weinberg said in a statement. “As the primary television home of Conference USA, we are exc ited to showcase the conference’s best across sports throughout the year. This new deal adds even more live games and events to our CBS Sports Network lineup and we look forward to crowning champions in football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and softball for years to come.”

ESPN linear networks will carry eight football games per season, as well as a minimum of five regular season men’s basketball games and one regular season women’s basketball game. Streaming service ESPN Plus will stream over 450 live conference sporting events, including all additional regular season football games and the conference’s USA Olympic sports events, said officials.

“ESPN is thrilled to continue its association with Conference USA and improve its selections to offer better and more games than ever before,” ESPN VP of Programming and Acquisitions Nick Dawson said. “Our combination of industry-leading linear networks and digital platforms will feature hundreds of events across multiple sports each year, providing C-USA, its member institutions, student athletes and fans unmatched simplicity and access to their favorite C-USA teams and games.”

Also: Big 12 Conference Seals Stabilizing $2.28 Billion TV Rights Extension with ESPN and Fox

To create higher visibility for its college football games, the nine-team conference will offer its October games during the week, with CBS, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU sharing the weeknight schedule, according to the conference.

“This is a major step forward for Conference USA in terms of our multimedia rights as it relates to streamlined exposure, accessibility for our fans and greater financial resources for our members,” C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement. “Building on our strong relationships with CBS and ESPN enabled us to provide increased exposure and consistent broadcast homes for our membership and fans as we continue to see the landscape of Conference USA and college athletics evolve.” ■

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.