After the secret got out of the bag Monday evening, the Mid-American Conference and ESPN jointly confirmed a new 13-year deal with TV rights deal ESPN, giving the "Worldwide Leader In Sports" distribution rights through 2026-2027 Tuesday morning.
In a press release, the parties explained the new deal, which includes provisions for the final three years of the MAC's eight-year deal signed in 2009, grants ESPN exclusive television and digital distribution rights (ESPN3) for all MAC sporting events, including olympic sports. Every MAC football game will be covered during the life of this contract, and several men's and women's basketball games will be too. The deal even includes the broadcast of some Olympic sporting events, likely on a streaming-only basis.
No details about financial terms, the impact this will have on the MAC's TV deal with Time Warner, or what new opportunities there will be for televised MAC basketball games were given in the release.
"This is a historic day for the Mid-American Conference," said MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher in the statement. "ESPN and the MAC have a long history together and were visionary in embracing mid-week football which continues to be a significant presence on the ESPN college football calendar. The length of this partnership brings long term stability for the Conference well into the next decade."
One other big detail released in the statement was that the MAC & ESPN are teaming up to allow schools to embedding of the ESPN3 player on school sites. ESPN says it will partner with member institutions to establish on-campus production capabilities allowing the teams to broadcast sporting events such as wrestling matchers and volleyball games on ESPN3.
These on-campus productions will include baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, wrestling and Olympic sports on ESPN3. #MACtion— Ken Mather (@KenMather_MAC) August 19, 2014
. @Beau1u It will be school's job to make it meet ESPN's standards. Any money making will be under ESPN's domain— Jason Arkley (@JasonAmessenger) August 19, 2014
The MAC's current eight-year deal, signed in 2009, paid pitifully low. The conference received just $1.4 million a year, split up among the 13 teams to equal a payout of just under $110,000 per school per year. by comparison, the WAC's deal with ESPN, signed just before the MAC and ESPN reached their previous deal, paid the WAC $4 million a season.
The MAC has been on ESPN since 2003 when former commissioner Rick Chryst negotiated a five-year deal with the network, creating weeknight MACtion in the process. Chryst later negotiated the 2009 deal, before leaving the conference a few months later. With funky, high-scoring games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the MAC has built up a niche brand that has helped it gain viewers outside of its small geographic footprint, albeit the ratings still are relatively low when compared to other live sports programing.
But it is likely going to upset member institutions if the new financial terms of this deal aren't a big step up, and it will certainly upset fans who haven't been happy with the the payouts their schools receive from ESPN. Hopefully, we'll find out some numbers soon.