Sun Belt & ESPN announce expanded media rights relationship
NEW ORLEANS — For the second-straight year, Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill announced during his annual State of the Conference address at Sun Belt Football Media Days that the conference has expanded its media rights deal with ESPN.
The new agreement, which still runs through the 2030-31 academic year, will provide the Sun Belt with additional resources, exposure and linear opportunities for Sun Belt football and basketball.
The agreement expands upon the Sun Belt’s extended ESPN media rights relationship—announced last year—which resulted in a more than 50 percent increase in the number of Sun Belt football games that appeared on ESPN’s linear offerings (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU), including 40 percent of those new opportunities televised on a Saturday.
“This new agreement is a recognition of the growth of the Sun Belt Conference and our commitment to excellence in all sports,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill. “On behalf of the entire Sun Belt, I want to thank Nick Dawson, ESPN Vice President of Programming and Acquisitions, and the college sports team at ESPN for their support of the Sun Belt Conference. I look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship.”
“We are thrilled to enhance our relationship with the Sun Belt Conference,” said Nick Dawson, ESPN Vice President, Programming and Acquisitions. “This continued growth will not only increase our televised offerings but will add thousands of events to ESPN+, ensuring easy access for the conference’s dedicated fans to consume more sports and more games throughout each season.”
The new agreement, which still runs through the 2030-31 academic year will result in more than 6,000 additional live events available on ESPN+ including men’s soccer, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, baseball and softball.
This commitment to Olympic sport coverage will include an equal number of baseball and softball contests—over 1,000 events in each sport—and will feature instant replay for the 2023 season. The conference also plans to decrease the overlaps of baseball and softball conference homestand weekends in future seasons to further enhance ESPN+ coverage.
The Sun Belt’s athletic success has never been more prominent. In addition to the conference’s notable accomplishments on the football field, the Sun Belt has seen increased success amongst its Olympic sports over the past five years. In that span, the Sun Belt has boasted nine NCAA softball tournament appearances, 10 trips to the NCAA baseball tournament and over 100 MLB draft picks.
With the addition of men’s soccer for the 2022-23 season, the Sun Belt will also feature some of the sport’s most accomplished programs. The nine teams set to begin competition this fall have combined for more than 100 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances, including a national championship for Marshall (2020) and a national runner-up finish for South Carolina (1993).
ESPN, Inc., is the world’s leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment brand, featuring an unmatched portfolio of sports assets. It is comprised of eight U.S. 24-hour television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, Longhorn Network, SEC Network and the ACC 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 (ESPN.com and many other sites, ESPN App, fantasy games and more), multi-screen ESPN3, ESPN International (26 networks, syndication, radio, digital), 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.
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