The Southeastern Conference and ESPN have finalized a milestone 10-year agreement that grants ABC and ESPN exclusive broadcast rights to premier SEC football and basketball events beginning in 2024-25 and continuing through 2033-34, as announced today by Greg Sankey, SEC Commissioner, and Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content.
The landmark deal, which represents a significant expansion of the conference’s current partnership with ESPN, will establish ABC as the new broadcast network home for Saturday afternoon SEC football games, as well as selected Saturday primetime football games and the annual SEC Football Championship Game, which has grown into one of the most popular sporting events of the year. In addition, approximately eight incremental marquee men’s basketball games will be featured across ABC or ESPN.
The new First Tier rights agreement puts all SEC media rights under The Walt Disney Company umbrella, giving the SEC exposure on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN+, SEC Network and SEC Network+.
The exclusive partnership with ESPN comes with significant scheduling flexibility that will produce an array of benefits for member schools, student-athletes and college football fans. Under the new agreement, a number of game times and broadcast windows will be announced in advance of the season, giving fans an ability to plan more seamlessly.
“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. “The broadcast industry’s intense and widespread interest in securing the SEC’s First Tier rights is a direct reflection of the sustained excellence achieved by our 14 member schools, and we are thrilled to have been able to maximize our current position of strength to benefit our student-athletes, the fans who go to our games and home viewers.”
BROADCAST AND SCHEDULING ELEMENTS
The agreement includes a number of significant elements that will benefit student-athletes and fans alike:
- Regular SEC Football Game on ABC on Saturday Afternoons
- Additional football games on ABC Saturday Nights
- SEC Football Championship Game on ABC
- Introduction of a modernized, more fan-friendly scheduling process, with many game windows solidified earlier while providing flexibility to maximize the exposure of the Conference’s biggest games
- More marquee men’s basketball games on ABC or ESPN
- Additional non-conference men’s basketball games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2
- Beginning with the 2021-22 season, the right to place a limited number of non-conference football and men’s basketball games on ESPN+ that will allow schools autonomy to determine start times
“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. “With all SEC events now under The Walt Disney Company umbrella, we were able to craft an agreement that includes more lead time for many game time announcements, and in many ways modernizes the college football scheduling process.”
“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 Pitaro. “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, student-athletes and fans.”
Perhaps most beneficial to fans who attend games, beginning in Fall 2024, is the early assignment of most games to designated game windows. This new scheduling process means that, well in advance of the season, fans will know the general start time for many of their games, while still providing adequate flexibility for ESPN to maximize the exposure of the SEC’s biggest and best games and react to storylines throughout the season.
The SEC’s new agreement with ESPN will ensure more national appearances for SEC men’s basketball teams across ABC and ESPN and more non-conference games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.
In addition, the agreement features the right for ESPN to move a limited number of non-conference games in football and men’s basketball to ESPN+ beginning in the 2021-22 season. One added benefit of a game appearing on ESPN+ is that the home institution will determine the start time. Launched in April 2018, ESPN+ has grown quickly to 10.3 million subscribers in just over two years, offering fans thousands of live events, original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks, as well as premium editorial content.
The new agreement is separate and in addition to existing agreements with ESPN for events in football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and softball, as well as the agreement that created and under which ESPN operates the SEC Network. These existing agreements also continue through 2033-34.