ESPN and American Athletic Conference Reach Long-Term Media Rights Extension

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ESPN and American Athletic Conference Reach Long-Term Media Rights Extension

  • 12-Year Agreement Begins in 2020-21 when Current Agreement Expires
  • More than 130 Conference-Controlled Football, Men’s and Women’s Basketball Games on ESPN’s Television Networks Each Year
  • Increased Exposure via ESPN+ with More than 1,000 Conference Events Annually Beginning in 2022-23; 500, 750 Events in Each of the First Two Years
  • Nearly Every Football and Men’s Basketball Conference-Controlled Game and Every Women’s Basketball Conference-Controlled Game on an ESPN TV Network or ESPN+

ESPN and the American Athletic Conference have reached a 12-year extension for the conference’s global media rights, strengthening the conference’s extensive existing presence on ESPN’s television networks and adding thousands of events on ESPN+, the industry-leading direct-to-consumer sports streaming service, through 2031-32. The extension begins with the 2020-21 academic year following the final year of the agreement between ESPN and the conference that began in 2013-14.

Beginning in 2020-21, more than 130 football, men’s and women’s basketball games from The American will be aired annually on ESPN’s television networks, including its most high profile events — the football championship game, the entire men’s basketball conference tournament and multiple rounds, including the championship game, from the women’s basketball conference tournament. 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).

The American events on ESPN+ will begin with the start of the new agreement, with the direct-to-consumer service offering more than 500 conference controlled events in 2020-21 with nearly 400 of those events being football, men’s and women’s basketball and American sponsored Olympic sports championships. The overall number of events will ramp up to 750 the following season and then more than 1,000 events annually beginning with the 2022-23 season. Starting in year one and through the duration, football and men’s and women’s basketball will make up approximately 330 games per season.

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 networks or ESPN+. All women’s basketball conference-controlled games will also be carried across ESPN’s platforms.

“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,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN Executive Vice President of Programming and Scheduling. “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.”

Said The American Commissioner Aresco “I am thrilled with our conference’s multi-year contract extension with ESPN.  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, 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.

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

More than 1,650 Games from The American to Air across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ABC during the Agreement 

The American will continue to have an extensive presence on ESPN’s linear networks, including ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU:

  • Football:
    • At least 40 regular season games per season, including at least 20 on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 which represents increased annual exposure across those networks versus the current agreement.
    • A similar number of Thursday, Friday and Saturday games.
    • Conference Championship game on ABC or ESPN each year.
  • Men’s Basketball:
    • At least 65 regular season games per season, with at least 25 across ESPN and ESPN2.
    • Complete annual coverage of the Conference tournament across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, including the Conference Championship game on ESPN.
  • Women’s Basketball:
    • At least 13 regular season games per season, 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.
  • More Sports: A minimum of five additional Olympic sports events from the The American per year will air on ESPN networks as well, with details to be determined at a later date.

ESPN+ Thousands of Events, Including Regular Season and Conference Championship Events
ESPN+ will carry over 11,000 events from The American throughout the duration of the agreement, including thousands of football and men’s and women’s basketball games.

  • Football: Approximately 30-35 games per year in addition to those on ESPN’s linear networks
  • Men’s Basketball: Approximately 135 conference-controlled games in addition to those on ESPN’s linear networks.
  • Women’s Basketball: Approximately 160 conference-controlled games per year in addition to those on ESPN’s linear networks, plus the first round and quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
  • Additional Sports: Hundreds of games each year across all multiple sports, including baseball, softball, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball.
  • Conference Championships: Conference Championship action across multiple sports, including: men’s and women’s cross country, golf, indoor and outdoor track & field, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, baseball, lacrosse, rowing, softball, and volleyball.

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 The American Conference 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.

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

ESPN and The American Extend a Successful Relationship
ESPN has been the primary media rights holder for The American 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 and the conference will operate under the terms of the existing agreement for the 2019-20 season.

About ESPN
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.

About ESPN+
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 other 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) and can cancel at any time.

ESPN+ is available as an integrated part of the ESPN App (on mobile and connected devices) and They are the industry-leading all-in-one digital sports platform, delivering a rich, personalized experience to tens of millions of fans every month.

The American Athletic Conference
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 Media Contact: Derek Volner at 860-384-9986; [email protected] and @DerekVolner

Derek Volner

I currently lead ESPN’s NFL Communications, including Monday Night Football, NFL Draft and studio programming. Previously, I did the same for ESPN’s vast college football portfolio. I have been with ESPN since 2013.
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