ESPN has reached a new long-term, multiplatform agreement with the NCAA for expanded rights to 24 collegiate championships, including continued coverage of the women's Division I basketball tournament and College World Series.
The $500 million, 14-year deal through the 2023-24 academic year, also covers exclusive multimedia rights outside the U.S., its territories and Bermuda for the Division 1 Men's Basketball Championship. The pact, taking effect immediately, also provides expanded coverage of each round of the NIT Season Tip-Off and all games from the NIT Postseason Tournament across the ESPN networks, while providing ESPN with expanded"March Madness" highlight rights.
With the long-term contract encompassing online, mobile, broadband and TV Everywhere rights, ESPN has retained properties, albeit at a high price-tag, that are growing in popularity.
"I'm not sure this ever got to market," said ESPN senior vice president, college sports programming Burke Magnus. "The NCAA wanted to sync the championships up with the [term] of the CBS/Turner deal with the men's basketball tournament."
A spokesman for the NCAA said that ESPN, Turner and CBS all had expressed interest in the college championship as part of their requests for proposals for the men's basketball division. However, after Turner/CBS succeeded with their $10.8 billion deal for TV and multimedia rights to March Madness through 2024, ESPN was the only company engaged in the negotiations for the rights to the other NCAA championships.
The new deal supersedes the three remaining years of ESPN's extant contract that was carved out of a CBS package of rights, when Black Rock renewed the men's basketball tourney back in 1999. ESPN in 2003 began televising all women's NCAA basketball-tournament games, as well as 20 other college championships, as part of an 11-year pact that had been valued at some $200 million.
Under the new pact, ESPN and its networks retain exclusive coverage of the Division I Women's Basketball Championship and broad rights covering the NCAA Division I Football Championship, plus the men's and women's baseball and softball World Series, swimming and diving, lacrosse and soccer championship action.
ESPN is also adding championship coverage of seven sports Division I women's gymnastics, men's and women's fencing, women's lacrosse, men's and women's outdoor track & field and women's bowling. Some of that action had been streamed on NCAA.com.
ESPN will also air additional preliminary round coverage of selected NCAA championships, including football, women's volleyball, softball and baseball.
All told, the new agreement encompasses 600-plus hours and 300 telecasts -- including more than 90 live events and 220 hours during the 2011-12 season on ESPNU -- annually across myriad platforms.
Magnus said the "contract catches us up and allows us to go forward from a technology standpoint," pointing to programming that will now air on the Watch ESPN app, as well as exclusive content appearing on broadband service ESPN3.com
"The baseball tournament has 64 teams at 16 sub-regionals. We only scratch the surface with TV coverage of the College World Series," he said. "This deal allows us to dive much deeper."
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