NCAA and ESPN ink 8-year, $920 million media rights deal

An ESPN GameDay logo is displayed at the Capital One Orange Bowl game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida State Seminoles at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Dec. 30, 2023.

Peter Joneleit | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

The NCAA and ESPN have reached a new eight-year media rights deal worth more than $115 million annually, as the value of sports media rights reaches new heights.

The new agreement carries an annual value of roughly three times the current 14-year deal, which pays about $40 million annually.

An NCAA spokesperson confirmed an additional 25%, or $28.75 million annually, will help with production and marketing costs.

“ESPN and the NCAA have enjoyed a strong and collaborative relationship for more than four decades, and we are thrilled that it will continue as part of this new, long-term agreement,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro.

The new deal is effective Sept. 1 and runs through 2032. It will include the rights to 40 NCAA championships — 21 women’s and 19 men’s events — as well as exclusive championship coverage of all rounds for women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, women’s gymnastics, softball, baseball and FCS football. It also provides international rights to the 40 championships and the Division I men’s basketball championship.

“Having one, multi-platform home to showcase our championships provides additional growth potential along with a greater experience for the viewer and our student-athletes,” NCAA President Charlie Baker said in a statement.

As the sports media landscape changes, women’s sports have been a bright spot, as they notch record ratings in recent years. ESPN has benefited through its airing of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament and the WNBA playoffs, among other sports.

Endeavor’s IMG and WME Sports, who consulted for the NCAA on the deal, say about 57% of the value of the deal is tied to women’s college basketball specifically, Baker told the Associated Press.

The NCAA said the dramatic increase in the value of the NCAA’s media rights will allow it to explore revenue distribution units for the women’s basketball tournament, a topic the organization began discussing last year.

Last year, complaints of inequality overshadowed the women’s tournament as several players posted on social media that their facilities were significantly worse than the men’s facilities.

“Concurrent with the terms of the new media rights, several enhancements to student-athlete benefits across all three NCAA divisions will take effect, and this deal will help fund those important programs. And the national, integrated platform the family of ESPN networks provides will help grow the visibility of many NCAA sports, particularly for our women student-athletes,” said Linda Livingstone, chair of the NCAA Board of Governors and Baylor University president.

ESPN and the NCAA’s relationship has lasted more than 45 years, since ESPN launched in 1979.

The NBA has the next major professional sports rights up for grabs. The league is in negotiations with a plethora of interested parties as it looks to make its decision before the current deal expires following the 2024-25 season.

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