The long-rumored rights deal between the SEC and ESPN, which would move the SEC’s ballyhooed game of the week package and the SEC Championship to ABC, was officially announced on Thursday.
The SEC will continue on CBS through the 2023-24 season before moving over in the summer of 2024 and continuing on through (gulp) the 2033-34 season. Students graduating in 2034 are what, eight years old today?
ESPN will reportedly pay a stunning $3 billion over ten years for the package. It will end at the same time as the 20-year deal ESPN signed with the SEC back in 2013 that resulted in the launch of SEC Network.
The deal is centered around the top-tier SEC football package, guaranteeing the best conference game each week to ABC. That game had previously been on CBS, which led to ESPN getting the second-best game each week. This guarantees that Georgia-Florida, Alabama-LSU, and the Iron Bowl will be on ABC each year starting in 2024.
Of note: some non-conference football and men’s basketball games will be shifted to ESPN+ next season, as this note indicates.
An element of the rights deal that will begin next season, ESPN+ will have the right to stream one non-conference football game and two non-conference men’s basketball games per SEC school each season. In total, ESPN+ will carry up to 14 non-conference football games and up to 20 non-conference men’s basketball games annually.
A whole lot can happen in four years, especially in the sports media world. Hell, four years ago, Jon Gruden was still in the Monday Night Football booth, neither Verne Lundquist nor Vin Scully had retired, and Thursday Night Football was airing on three networks, none of which were Fox. Regardless of whatever happens over the next four years, once we get to the fall of 2024, we know which network the best SEC game of the week will be on – and it’s not the network that has housed the game since the early 1990s.
As for CBS, they’ve still got four more SEC Championship games to air and three more full football seasons, so they’re not turning the lights out quite yet. But with the SEC leaving in 2024, will the network turn to another conference? The only conference that could come close to filling the SEC’s shoes would be the Big Ten, whose rights deals are up after the 2022-23 season. Could CBS possibly gazump either ESPN or Fox for those rights? If not, it would be left with the prospect of either the Pac-12 (ending after 2023-24) or Big 12 (expires after 2024-2025) which could provide the inventory, but perhaps not the quality of either the SEC or Big Ten.