Business and Deals

ESPN Officially Announces New Rights Deal With Current Big East

Agreement extends through 2019-20; conference to be renamed 3/19/2013 02:02:16 PM Eastern

As expected, ESPN has agreed to extend its rights deal with
the current Big East conference, which will soon be renamed following its split
with the "Catholic 7."

The new deal extends through the 2019-20 season. ESPN's
existing football agreement is through 2013 while the 2013-14 season will act
as a bridge year for the conference's basketball rights. Beginning in 2014-15,
football, basketball and other sports will be under one agreement, giving ESPN
rights to all conference contests (not included in CBS' basketball rights
package) including at least 66 football games and 170 men's basketball games.
Games will be available across ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, ESPNU, ESPNEWS and ESPN3, as
well as mobile and digital via the WatchESPN authenticated service.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but published reports peg the pact's value at some $130 million.

"This agreement signifies our commitment to ensuring
superior content across any device for many more years," said John
Skipper, ESPN president, in a statement. "Sports fans everywhere, including the schools'
most passionate followers, will enjoy our extensive multi-sport
offerings."

During a press call announcing the pact, ESPN senior VP of college sports programming Burke Magnus said the deal allows for limited sub-licensing to national broadcast networks and regional sports networks. Magnus said anticipates that there will be "national broadcast interest," but the "lion's share" will be on ESPN national platforms or digital distribution. He anticipates that some games will be available for RSN sublicensing.

Big East conference commissioner Mike Aresco said on the call that a new conference name, discussions for which involves a broad group including the academic institutions, their presidents, "key constituents and partners," could be revealed in April or early May. More immediately, the conference expects to have more rights news. "We do anticipate an announcing a [broadcast] network deal next week," which he said would dovetail with ESPN. Although he noted that CBS is a long-time conference partner, he did not identify the networks engaged in discussions.

For its part, Fox Sports will hold a press conference in New York Wednesday to announce its media deal with the "new" Big East Conference. The conference, which will continue to play its men's basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden, will tip off play with the upcoming school year.

Mike Reynolds (Multichannel News) contributed to this story.

March