On Thursday, Conference USA announced its new media rights agreement with CBS and ESPN.
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— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) November 10, 2022
The agreement, first reported on Wednesday by the Sports Business Journal, will reportedly pay the conference’s schools $750,000 per year through the five-year deal, far behind the eight figures that power conference schools are getting, but right behind what the MAC and Sun Belt schools are making.
The main talking point from the deal is the shift of all October football games to weeknights. Here’s C-USA’s spin on that from their release.
C-USA membership 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.
CBS Sports Network will get the best content throughout the season, with tier one selection status for 18 games apiece in football and men’s basketball, along with the rights to the championship games in football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and softball. The semifinals of the men’s basketball tournament also will air on CBS Sports Network.
ESPN gets sheer tonnage in its part of the deal. Eight of those October weeknight games will air on ESPN linear networks each season (figure two per week), with the rest of the football games on ESPN+ or ESPN3. Olympic sports, aside from the aforementioned baseball and softball championship games, will live on ESPN+, along with the men’s and women’s basketball games not airing on CBS Sports Network. Additionally, at least five men’s and one women’s basketball game will air on ESPN’s linear networks. In total, “over 450 live sporting events” are heading to ESPN’s digital platforms, up from 175 under the ESPN+ deal signed in 2018.
Last month, an article at The Athletic detailed the woes of Conference USA’s hodgepodge of previous media rights deals, which included games on Facebook and Stadium. There were also discussions about the early season weeknight games in that article, which were on point after Thursday’s announcement.
If there’s a downside to the C-USA’s new deals, it’s that fans will still need a cable subscription in other to watch everything. The CBS Sports Network games can’t be streamed on Paramount+, and the games airing on ESPN’s linear networks aren’t available on ESPN+. Despite that, viewers are increasingly getting used to flipping over to either cable or ESPN+ to watch live games, which is more than you can say about watching games on Facebook.