ESPN, WCVB Get Exclusive Boston Marathon Broadcast Rights

Boston Marathon ESPN WCVB
The Boston Marathon is moving to ESPN, WCVB (Image credit: Boston Athletic Association/PhotoRun)

The Boston Athletic Association on Wednesday said that starting in 2023 ESPN will become the exclusive national television outlet for the Boston Marathon with WCVB, the Hearst Television station in Boston, winning local rights to the event. 

NBCUniversal showed the 2022 race on USA Network and Peacock. Local coverage was provided by CBS News and Stations-owned WBZ. 

The Patriot Day race is returning to both ESPN and WCVB. ESPN aired the road race in the early 1980s and then from 1997-2004. WCVB, an ABC affiliate, provided wire-to-wire coverage of the marathon from 1982 through 2006, including the largest Boston Marathon in history — the centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 featured 35,868 finishers. (ABC owner The Walt Disney Co. is the controlling shareholder in ESPN with Hearst holding a 20% stake in the network.)

WCVB also becomes the exclusive year-round local TV and streaming partner for all Boston Athletic Association events.

“The B.A.A. and the Boston Marathon are esteemed around the world and beloved by our community, and to be launching this exclusive partnership as WCVB marks 50 years in broadcasting and service to the community is especially fitting,” said Kyle I. Grimes, WCVB president and general manager. “WCVB has a proud history of covering the market’s marquee events, and the Boston Marathon is the perfect addition to Channel 5’s signature, local programming. We also look forward to working with the B.A.A. year-round to highlight their many other athletic events as well as the great work they do in the community.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“The Boston Marathon is one of the world’s most recognizable and best-known sporting events and we’re proud to be able to bring it to ESPN viewers for years to come,” added Burke Magnus, president, programming and original content, for ESPN. “We look forward to working with the B.A.A. and WCVB to present the stories and athletic achievements of this classic race.”

ESPN will broadcast the 127th Boston Marathon, scheduled to take place on April 17, 2023, on its flagship channel from 8:30 a.m. ET until 1 p.m. ET. ESPN will also have coverage of the race within SportsCenter before the live coverage and later in the day, as well as coverage appearing on other ESPN shows and platforms.

ESPN televises other endurance events including the TCS New York City Marathon, NCAA Division I Indoor & Outdoor Track and Field Championships, NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, the American Track League and the Penn Relays.

Live coverage of the Boston Marathon will air on WCVB beginning at 4 a.m. ET through 8 p.m. ET. The race will be exclusively simulcast regionally on Hearst Television-owned sister-stations WMUR, Manchester, New Hampshire; WMTW, Portland/Auburn, Maine and WPTZ, Burlington, Vermont/Plattsburgh, New York). The Boston Marathon will also be live-streamed on Very Local Boston, and the streaming platform will host year-round content featuring the B.A.A.

“We’re honored to partner with ESPN and WCVB Channel 5, respected market leaders who bring a spirit of innovation and thoughtful storytelling that will propel the mission of the B.A.A. and legacy of the world’s oldest annual marathon forward,” said Jack Fleming, acting CEO of the B.A.A. “Both have established a tradition of broadcasting world-class athletic events, and we are excited to build on this tradition together into the future.”  ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.