Conference Signs New Broadcast Deal with ESPN

August 20, 2014

The Mid-American Conference has signed a new deal with ESPN that will give the sports network exclusive broadcast rights to MAC games for the next 13 years. The deal covers football, men's and women's basketball, and all Olympic sporting events. The agreement guarantees that all MAC football games will be broadcast on at least one of ESPN's television channels, as well as on the network's digital platforms.

In a conference call announcing the deal Tuesday, Jon Steinbrecher, MAC commissioner, said he couldn't reveal exactly how much the deal was worth but said that it was in a "totally different area code" than the MAC's existing agreement with the network. ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported that the deal amounts to more than $100 million, or about $8 million per year. That's about $670,000 for each school every year. The previous deal was worth about $1 million per year for the conference. 

The agreement moves the MAC closer to some of its FBS conference peers, but it still trails behind the American Athletic Conference, which has a broadcast agreement reportedly worth $130 million.

While the deal has been in the works since at least 2012, Steinbrecher said recent changes to how the National Collegiate Athletic Association is governed was a factor in the agreement. Earlier this month, the NCAA awarded a greater level of autonomy to the five wealthiest conferences, leading some less-wealthy conferences to fret over a growing gap between the so-called power five conferences and the rest of the colleges in Division I. "We've been forecasting where the world was going for a couple of years now, so that's why it was critical for us to bring this together now," Steinbrecher said. "It's certainly one part of bringing our membership forward in whatever this new world of collegiate athletics looks like."

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