Report: SEC closing in on ‘US$300m-a-year’ ESPN broadcast deal

College football’s most watched package to change hands from CBS to ABC.

8 January 2020 Sam Carp
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US college sports’ Southeastern Conference (SEC) is finalising the details of a new domestic broadcast deal with sports broadcasting giant ESPN, according to Sports Business Journal (SBJ).

If confirmed, the agreement would see the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conference’s premium college football package of 15 to 17 games per season change hands from commercial broadcaster CBS to ABC, which like ESPN is owned by Disney.

According to SBJ, ESPN will pay the SEC an annual fee ‘in the low US$300 million range’, marking a considerable uplift on the US$55 million per year the conference currently receives from CBS. However, the industry outlet noted that it is ‘difficult to pin a number’ on the deal given than ESPN already holds the SEC’s pay-TV rights and the dedicated SEC Network channel.

ESPN was reportedly able to convince the SEC to accept its bid on the basis that it would be able to be more creative with scheduling games when it controls all of the conference’s rights.

SBJ’s report added that it is not yet clear whether ESPN will make CBS an offer to take on the remainder of its current contract with the SEC, which does not expire until 2023.

The news comes after SBJ reported in December last year that CBS had dropped out of negotiations with the SEC for what is apparently college football’s most-watched package after making a similar bid to that later offered by ESPN of around US$300 million per season.

Explaining the decision to pull out of discussions with the SEC, CBS issued a statement to SBJ at the time which said: ‘We made a strong and responsible bid. While we‘ve had success with the SEC on CBS, we are instead choosing to aggressively focus on other important strategic priorities moving forward.’

Last year CBS acquired the US rights to the Uefa Champions League, European club soccer’s premier tournament, while SBJ reported in December that the broadcaster and NBC had agreed to up their financial commitment by ‘around 60 per cent’ to retain rights to golf’s PGA Tour.

US college sports’ Southeastern Conference (SEC) is finalising the details of a new domestic broadcast deal with sports broadcasting giant ESPN, according to Sports Business Journal (SBJ).

If confirmed, the agreement would see the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conference’s premium college football package of 15 to 17 games per season change hands from commercial broadcaster CBS to ABC, which like ESPN is owned by Disney.

According to SBJ, ESPN will pay the SEC an annual fee ‘in the low US$300 million range’, marking a considerable uplift on the US$55 million per year the conference currently receives from CBS. However, the industry outlet noted that it is ‘difficult to pin a number’ on the deal given than ESPN already holds the SEC’s pay-TV rights and the dedicated SEC Network channel.

ESPN was reportedly able to convince the SEC to accept its bid on the basis that it would be able to be more creative with scheduling games when it controls all of the conference’s rights.

SBJ’s report added that it is not yet clear whether ESPN will make CBS an offer to take on the remainder of its current contract with the SEC, which does not expire until 2023.

The news comes after SBJ reported in December last year that CBS had dropped out of negotiations with the SEC for what is apparently college football’s most-watched package after making a similar bid to that later offered by ESPN of around US$300 million per season.

Explaining the decision to pull out of discussions with the SEC, CBS issued a statement to SBJ at the time which said: ‘We made a strong and responsible bid. While we‘ve had success with the SEC on CBS, we are instead choosing to aggressively focus on other important strategic priorities moving forward.’

Last year CBS acquired the US rights to the Uefa Champions League, European club soccer’s premier tournament, while SBJ reported in December that the broadcaster and NBC had agreed to up their financial commitment by ‘around 60 per cent’ to retain rights to golf’s PGA Tour.

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