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SEC to rake in $300M per year under ABC-ESPN rights deal, ending ties with CBS

The Southeastern Conference has secured an enormous bag.

On Thursday, the league announced that it had reached an agreement on a 10-year broadcast rights deal with Disney’s ABC and ESPN, who will take over from CBS in airing the conference’s top Saturday football games, the SEC championship game and marquee men’s basketball games beginning in 2024. ESPN and ABC reportedly will pay the SEC $300 million per year for the First Tier rights.

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That figure represents more than a fivefold increase from the $55 million annual payout (per Sports Business Journal reporting in 2019) under the SEC’s current deal with CBS.

“This is a significant day for the Southeastern Conference and for the future of our member institutions,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said.

Thursday’s agreement expands the longstanding partnership between ESPN and the SEC. The network and conference are already in the middle of a 20-year rights deal that will expire after the 2033-34 school year. The agreement announced Thursday will end then, as well. All 21 of the conference’s sports are featured on ESPN’s set of networks and the SEC Network. The number of outlets will increase by one next year when the streaming site ESPN+ begins airing non-conference football and men’s basketball games.

ESPN, in its announcement of the deal, made a point of saying that the agreement will maximize flexibility in scheduling; no longer will the best football game of the week be locked into the late-afternoon window (i.e., 3:30 p.m. ET) as it is on CBS. The best game may air as part of ABC’s “Saturday Night Football.” The SEC said in its statement that games will be scheduled further in advance than they are now.

“With all the conference’s games under the ESPN umbrella and adding ABC and ESPN+ to our distribution channels, ESPN will have complete scheduling flexibility, resulting in maximum exposure and adding significant benefits for SEC schools and fans,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said.

“One of our primary goals was to improve the television scheduling process in ways that will benefit our students, coaches, alumni and fans,” Sankey said. “By working in collaboration with ESPN, we were able to secure an agreement that includes more lead time for many game-time announcements, and in many ways modernizes the college football scheduling process.”

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