ESPN, CBS Sports Ink Sports Rights Deal with Conference USA

(Image credit: ESPN)

Conference USA has announced a new multimedia rights deal between C-USA and its longtime partners CBS Sports and ESPN that gets underway during the 2023-24 season.

“This is a major step forward for Conference USA in terms of our multimedia rights as it relates to streamlined exposure, accessibility for our fans and greater financial resources for our members,” commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “Building on our strong relationships with CBS and ESPN enabled us to provide increased exposure and consistent broadcast homes for our membership and fans as we continue to see the landscape of Conference USA and college athletics evolve.”

The multi-year agreement provides CBS Sports Network with tier one selection status for C-USA football (18 games annually) and men’s basketball (18 games annually) over the length of the partnership, while also televising the football championship, men’s basketball semifinal and championship games, the women’s basketball championship game, and baseball and softball championship games.

C-USA membership also approved a linear television-friendly scheduling format for football that sees all October league matchups played on midweek evenings. The broadcast partners will share C-USA’s October weeknight football games on linear television across CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

“Conference USA has been a key partner for nearly two decades and we are pleased to extend our longstanding relationship,” said Dan Weinberg, executive vice president, programming, CBS Sports. “As the primary television home of Conference USA, we are excited to showcase the conference’s best across sports throughout the year. This new deal adds even more live games and events to our CBS Sports Network lineup and we look forward to crowning champions in football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and softball for years to come.”

ESPN linear networks will carry eight midweek football games per season via the October midweek scheduling. In addition, ESPN+ or ESPN3 will carry all additional regular season football games, while also serving as the exclusive digital home for all of Conference USA’s Olympic sports (soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, etc.), including all C-USA tournament games aside from the title games for baseball and softball, which will air on CBS Sports Network. Consolidating all digital inventory with ESPN provides a much more streamlined process for C-USA fans under one banner. Over 450 live sporting events will be available and streaming on ESPN+/ESPN3.

ESPN linear networks will also broadcast a minimum of five regular season men’s basketball games and one regular season women’s basketball game on its linear networks, while holding digital rights to all additional women’s regular season basketball games and all men’s basketball regular season games beyond CBS Sports Network’s selections.

“ESPN is thrilled to continue its association with Conference USA and improve its selections to offer better and more games than ever before,” said Nick Dawson, Vice president of programming & acquisitions, ESPN. “Our combination of industry leading linear networks and digital platforms will feature hundreds of events across multiple sports each year, providing C-USA, its member institutions, student-athletes and fans unmatched simplicity and access to their favorite C-USA teams and games.”

Conference USA retained Octagon to assist with negotiating its deals with CBS and ESPN. The full schedule of games and their corresponding distribution outlets will be announced at a later date.

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.