ESPN has reached a comprehensive, long-term rights agreement with the Sun Belt Conference, extending ESPN and Sun Belt’s contract through the 2027-28 college season, adding eight additional seasons to the current deal that was set to expire following the 2019-20 season.
With the extension, ESPN will become the exclusive media partner of the Sun Belt Conference, delivering coverage of more than 500 conference-controlled events, across the conference’s 18 sports, each season on ESPN’s linear television networks and ESPN+, the company’s new direct-to-consumer sports streaming service launching this spring.
In addition to Sun Belt Conference events and content, ESPN+ will offer fans thousands of other live college and professional sports events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks – all for just $4.99 a month.
This new, exclusive deal sets the table for an integrated partnership between the Sun Belt, its member schools and ESPN’s industry-leading networks and platforms to allow all forms of Sun Belt sports content, including live events and surround programming, to reach more fans in a variety of new ways.
“ESPN has a long, mutually beneficial relationship with the Sun Belt, dating back to our foundational years,” said ESPN Executive Vice President of Scheduling and Acquisitions Burke Magnus. “We are thrilled to take that relationship to a new level via this new, innovative and exclusive extension, while also deepening our commitment to serving college sports fans. More Sun Belt events and content than ever before will now be available to fans however they choose to consume them in a more personalized and targeted manner.”
“The continuation of our agreement with ESPN marks one of the most historic announcements since the Sun Belt’s founding in 1976,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. “This is truly an ‘all in’ collaboration with ESPN, the Sun Belt, and our member institutions and the volume and accessibility of our games will have a profound impact on the future of the Sun Belt. We have enjoyed a long relationship with ESPN since its founding in 1979 and we look forward to being featured on its newest platform, ESPN+, which promises to revolutionize how fans of the Sun Belt and all of college sports watch their favorite teams in action.”
Beginning in the 2020-21 season, the first year of the extension, and continuing through the remainder of the deal, more than 500 Sun Belt events will be available on ESPN networks each season. A minimum of 15 of those events will air on ESPN’s linear networks with hundreds of additional events available exclusively on ESPN+. Details on the deal include:
- Football: All Sun Belt-controlled games exclusively on ESPN’s networks, with a minimum of 10 (including conference championship game) on one of ESPN’s linear television networks. Conference championship game on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 each year, beginning with the inaugural game in 2018.
- Men’s Basketball: All Sun Belt-controlled games exclusively on ESPN’s networks, with a minimum of six regular season appearances and the conference tournament championship game on one of ESPN’s linear television networks.
- Women’s Basketball: All Sun Belt-controlled games exclusively on ESPN’s networks, including the conference tournament championship game on one of ESPN’s linear networks.
- Additional Sports: All conference championship events exclusively on ESPN+. In addition, any Sun Belt-controlled regular season events produced, will be made available through ESPN+.
Fans will immediately experience the benefits of the new agreement, with more than 650 Sun Belt events carried across ESPN media platforms in the next two seasons, the majority on ESPN+. Starting in 2018-19 season, ESPN will carry all Sun Belt Conference controlled football games. More than 200 additional Sun Belt events across a variety of sports will be carried next season, including men’s and women’s regular season and conference basketball championships and a variety of other sports. For the 2019-20 season, ESPN will offer the same all-inclusive football slate, and the number of additional conference controlled Sun Belt events jumps to more than 350, with at least 150 being men’s basketball.