ESPN and the SEC announced Thursday that they have reached a 10-year deal beginning in 2024 that will make the network the exclusive rights holder of SEC football and men’s basketball.
The deal provides the network, including ABC, up to 15 premier football games, including the SEC championship game and rivalry games such as Alabama-Auburn and Florida-Georgia.
“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 [Greg] Sankey and their member institutions,” said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman, ESPN and sports content. “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 and fans.”
Beginning in 2024, ABC will air an SEC game every week, including a regular late-afternoon kickoff, and will have the option to feature an SEC game on ABC’s Saturday Night Football for the first time.
“So Saturday night, prime time on ABC is the highest profile window, the biggest stage in terms of college football. And we love the fact that we can now bring the ABC platform into the mix, starting in 2024,” Pitaro told The Associated Press.
ABC will also air the SEC Championship Game in the late afternoon, and either ABC or ESPN will feature a late-afternoon Friday-after-Thanksgiving SEC game.
“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,” Sankey said. “One of our primary goals was to improve the television-scheduling process in ways that will benefit our students, coaches, alumni and fans. By working in collaboration with ESPN, we were able to secure an agreement that includes more lead time for many game-time announcements, and in many ways modernizes the college football scheduling process.”
Sankey said moving the SEC’s media rights under one roof will allow the conference to set start times for more games much farther out. The conference hopes that’s a boon for both TV and online viewers as well as fans going to the games.
“I think more than half of our games we can set up (kick-off times) during the summer,” Sankey told The AP. “They’re still going to be some of the 12-day and even maybe narrower adjustments, but those will be limited.”
Unlike most major spectator sports, the vast majority of game times in college football are set within two weeks of kickoff. The lack of lead time is a frequent complaint from fans across the country and has contributed to dips in college football attendance.
ESPN+ will have the right to stream one nonconference football game and two nonconference men’s basketball games per SEC school each season. All told, ESPN+ will carry up to 14 nonconference football games and up to 20 nonconference men’s basketball games annually.
Sankey said schools will be allowed to set kickoff times for games shown exclusively on ESPN+.
The agreement with the SEC expands the portfolio of ESPN+ to 20 conferences and thousands of college games each year.
This new agreement will be concurrent with the separate, existing 20-year agreement between ESPN and the SEC that also runs through 2033-34 and sees ESPN carry more than 1,950 SEC games each year across the conference’s 21 sports on ESPN networks and SEC Network.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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