American Athletic Conference and ESPN agree to 12-year media rights extension

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco and ESPN Executive Vice President of Programming and Scheduling Burke Magnus have announced that The American and ESPN have reached agreement on a 12-year media rights extension beginning in 2020-21.

ESPN has been the Conference’s principal media rights holder for football, men’s and women’s basketball and Olympic sports since the league’s reconstitution in 2013-14. Financial terms of the contract, which will run through 2031-32, were not disclosed.

With the new agreement, The American will have a stronger and more extensive presence on ESPN’s primary TV networks – ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. More than 135 conference-controlled games will air annually on the networks, and more than 1,650 events will be telecast throughout the duration of the contract. Among the annual events, the football championship game, all rounds of the men’s basketball championship, and multiple rounds of the women’s basketball championship, will be on ESPN TV networks.

The Conference will also be a valuable part of ESPN+, ESPN’s industry-leading direct-to-consumer sports streaming service. At least 1,000 American events will be featured on the platform beginning in 2022-23 and in each subsequent year of the contract. In the first two years, 1,250 events (500 in 2020-21 and 750 in 2021-22) will be distributed on ESPN+.

“I am thrilled with our conference’s multi-year contract extension with ESPN,” Aresco said. “ESPN is unquestionably the best media company with which to partner, not only in television but in overall distribution capabilities and reputation. ESPN’s multiple linear platforms, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, will provide unprecedented exposure for our conference and will assure our continued growth and national impact. We are also delighted to be a major part of ESPN+, a fast-growing and innovative digital platform which will make more of our games, and more of our sports, available to more fans than ever before.

“I want to thank ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro and Senior Executive Burke Magnus for their roles in this landmark negotiation and agreement, and for their support of our conference and their vision for ESPN.”

Magnus added: “This long-term, multifaceted agreement with The American allows us to build upon our existing relationship and deliver a comprehensive, end-to-end exposure solution to the conference for all their content.” “On our television networks, The American will continue to be a significant and consistent component of our industry-leading college sports portfolio. The thousands of events from the conference we plan to showcase on ESPN+ will add to a robust programming lineup that includes a vast array of other college sports events, UFC, MLB, NHL, Top Rank Boxing, first-tier soccer from around the world, plus high-quality original content and on-demand offerings. We are thrilled to showcase the conference across our platforms and thank American Commissioner Mike Aresco and its member institutions for the collaborative effort to further enhance its brand’s national exposure.”

A breakdown of the Conference games that will air across ESPN’s linear networks throughout the duration of the contract are as follows:

A minimum of 40 regular-season telecasts per season on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, including at least 20 across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, which represents increased annual exposure across those ESPN networks.

A similar number of Thursday and Friday contests.

The American Championship game will be televised each year on ABC or ESPN.

New to ESPN’s TV rights beginning in 2020-21 are all Navy-controlled football games versus Notre Dame, plus first pick of the remaining Navy-controlled football games each year (excluding any games versus Army and Air Force). Beyond select Navy football games and select men’s basketball games, all conference controlled football and men’s basketball games from The American will air on an ESPN network or ESPN+. All women’s basketball controlled games will also be carried across ESPN’s platforms.

Men’s Basketball
A minimum of 65 regular-season games per season on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, with at least 25 on ESPN or ESPN2.
Complete annual coverage of the conference tournament across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, including the championship game on ESPN.

Women’s Basketball
A minimum of 13 regular-season games per season on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, with a minimum of five on ESPN and ESPN2.
Conference Tournament Semifinals on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU and the Conference Final on ESPN or ESPN2.

Olympic Sports
A minimum of five additional Olympic sport telecasts per year will air as well, with details to be determined at a later date.

ESPN+ will carry more than 11,000 events during the term of the agreement, including football, men’s and women’s basketball and Olympic sport contests. It is estimated that between 30-35 conference-controlled football games and approximately 135 men’s basketball games will be distributed annually on the cutting-edge platform. An estimated 160 conference-controlled women’s basketball games, plus first and quarterfinal rounds of the women’s basketball championship, will also be streamed on the digital platform. In addition, hundreds of Olympic sports events will appear on ESPN+, including baseball, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball and volleyball.
ESPN+ also will be the home to championship action from cross country, golf, indoor and outdoor track & field, soccer, swimming & diving and tennis, as well as select games during the baseball, women’s lacrosse, rowing, softball and volleyball tournaments.

As part of the agreement, all ESPN+ events will be produced and branded as the American Digital Network, and accessible to fans of the Conference alongside live streamed events from ESPN networks and other related video in an American-branded landing page on the ESPN App, providing a one-stop destination for fans to view conference events. The content will also be served to fans who select American member schools among their favorites in the ESPN App. ESPN also is committed to enhancing The American’s brand during all of its TV Network telecasts.

American content will be available as part of any ESPN+ subscription. Fans can subscribe at

The American and ESPN will operate under the terms of the existing agreement for the 2019-20 season.

“Our schools are committed to our Power 6 campaign and to providing our student-athletes with the highest level of competition.” Aresco added. “This agreement furthers these goals and allows us to continue our mutually-beneficial relationship with our valued media partner.”

The American Athletic Conference (The American), a member of the NCAA, was reconstituted in 2013. With the conference office in Providence, Rhode Island, The American is comprised of the following institutions: UCF, Cincinnati, UConn, ECU, Houston, Memphis, Navy (in football only), USF, SMU, Temple, Tulane and Tulsa. Wichita State (basketball and Olympic sports) joined the Conference on July 1, 2017. Under the leadership of Commissioner Mike Aresco, The American sponsors 22 championships – 10 for men and 12 for women; is a member of the College Football Playoff; began new television partnerships with ESPN and CBS Sports in 2013-14; and has a marketing partnership with Learfield. For more information, please visit

ESPN, Inc., is the world’s leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment enterprise featuring a portfolio of more than 50 multimedia sports assets. It is comprised of eight U.S. 24-hour television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, Longhorn Network and the SEC Network; five with HD simulcast services – ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS and ESPN Deportes). Other businesses include direct-to-consumer video service ESPN , ESPN Audio (broadcast, satellite, digital, podcasts), an array of digital services ( and many other sites, ESPN App, fantasy games and more), multi-screen ESPN3, ESPN International (26 networks, syndication, radio, digital), ESPN The Magazine, consumer products, ESPN Events and espnW. Based in Bristol, Conn., ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Hearst holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN.

ESPN and American Athletic Conference Extend a Successful Partnership
ESPN has been the primary media rights holder for the American Athletic Conference for the duration of its current configuration, which began in 2013-14. In that time, ESPN has televised the league’s most high-profile events, including the football championship games and the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in addition to hundreds of regular season contests.

ESPN+ is the multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment and ESPN. It reached 2 million subscribers in less than a year and offers fans thousands of live events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks, along with premium editorial content.

Programming on ESPN+ includes hundreds of MLB and NHL games, exclusive UFC and Top Rank boxing events, top domestic and international soccer (Serie A, MLS, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredivisie, and more), thousands of college sports events (including football, basketball and Olympic sports), Grand Slam tennis, international and domestic rugby and cricket, new and exclusive series, acclaimed studio shows and the full library of ESPN’s award-winning 30 for 30 films. Fans subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year).

Statements from American Athletic Conference Presidents and
Athletic Directors on ESPN Media Rights Extension

“This is a great day for the American Athletic Conference as we announce our landmark television and media agreement with ESPN, which has been our valued media partner over the past six years. This agreement reflects the progress we have made and positions us extremely well for continued future growth. The agreement will afford our institutions and our student-athletes additional resources to continue to compete at the highest level. The combination of traditional linear platforms and the cutting-edge digital technology of ESPN+ also position us to flourish in the dynamic and changing future media environment.

“I want to congratulate and extend my gratitude to American Commissioner Mike Aresco for negotiating this outstanding extension with ESPN. I am grateful for his skill, dedication and leadership.”
Dr. Renu Khator
President, University of Houston
Chair, American Athletic Conference
Board of Directors

“The new media rights agreement with ESPN is a more accurate reflection of the value, national brand and top-tier stature of the member universities. There is ground left to cover, but the American Athletic Conference is making steady, incremental progress. Commissioner Aresco has done an exceptional job from beginning to end, and I am grateful for his diligence, thoughtfulness and continued leadership.”
Dr. David Rudd
President, University of Memphis
Vice Chair, American Athletic Conference
Board of Directors

“The thirteen universities of the American Athletic Conference are grateful to Commissioner Mike Aresco and ESPN for their success in developing this new media rights package. It continues the ascent of the American Athletic Conference toward Power 6 status.”
Dr. R. Gerald Turner
President, Southern Methodist University

“We are excited for the opportunities this new media rights agreement provides all the members of our Conference. The American Athletic Conference, over the past five years, has had extraordinary success, and this is our media partner ESPN recognizing the strength and success of our past, our present and our future. I want to applaud Commissioner Mike Aresco on a job well-done. His thoughtful leadership and insight have been critical to our Conference.”
Tom Bowen
Athletic Director, University of Memphis
Chair, American Athletic Conference
Athletic Directors Executive Committee

“This is a landmark day for the future of the American Athletic Conference and certainly for Tulane University and Green Wave athletics. This partnership will significantly elevate our league’s national exposure over a variety of platforms and will provide a tremendous opportunity to expand our audience. Over the past five years, fans of college athletics across the country have taken notice of The American and this announcement is living proof of that recognition.”
Troy Dannen
Athletic Director, Tulane University
Vice-Chair, American Athletic Conference
Athletic Directors Executive Committee

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