The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body of college athletics in the US, has announced a new eight-year, $920 million television agreement with major sports broadcaster ESPN.
The deal, which starts with the 2024-25 academic year and runs through 2031-32, includes domestic rights to 40 championships – 21 women’s and 19 men’s events – and international rights to the same championships as well as the Division I men’s basketball tournament.
It encompasses several top college sports including American football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, gymnastics, and volleyball.
However, the deal does not include several marquee games from American football and basketball, including the Division I men’s basketball’s ‘March Madness’ tournament, which is shown by Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) via national network CBS and the Turner cable networks.
The agreement will see ESPN pay an average of $115 million per year throughout the contract – roughly three times the current 14-year deal, which pays around $40 million annually. More than 2,300 hours of NCAA championships will be aired across ESPN and its sister channel ABC annually.
The deal was brokered by Endeavor’s international sports marketing agencies IMG and WME Sports, which serves as the media advisor to the NCAA during negotiations.
ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said: “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.
“The ESPN networks and platforms will exclusively present a record number of championships, including all rounds of several marquee events that, together with the NCAA, we have grown over time. This unprecedented deal also further strengthens The Walt Disney Company's commitment to women's sports and will help fuel our continued growth, including in the critical streaming space.”
NCAA president Charlie Baker added: “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.”
The NCAA’s inclusion of the Division I women’s basketball tournament is notable as, despite its popularity, has not been sold as a standalone competition like its male equivalent. However, the NCAA said slightly more than half the annual fee provided by ESPN – around $65 million per year – will go to women’s basketball.
The NCAA said in a statement: “With the significant increase in value of the new agreement, NCAA members will explore revenue distribution units for the women's basketball tournament.
“The Division I Board of Directors Finance committee began discussion of revenue distribution philosophies and new models this year, and those discussions will continue with membership in the coming year.”
Paramount Global and WBD's deal for the men’s Division I basketball tournament runs through 2032 and is worth $873 million per year. The final eight years of that agreement, which was signed in 2016, will average more than $1 billion.