MAC and ESPN Announce Rights Agreement Through 2016-17

CLEVELAND, Ohio The MAC and ESPN announced today a new eight-year rights agreement, running through the 2016-17 academic year, for football, and men’s and women’s basketball that will be the most extensive in the 63-year history of the conference.

The announcement was made at the conclusion of the MAC Joint Committee meetings held this week in Indianapolis, Ind.  The new deal calls for a minimum of 25 events annually to be produced and aired on an ESPN platform. The agreement follows one of the most successful regular-seasons ever for MAC football, including record telecast ratings on ESPN.

“Through demonstrated audience growth and success, both on the field and on the court, the MAC has proven to be a very popular and competitive conference,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president, college sports programming.  “The MAC and its member institutions have always had a shared vision of the benefits of creative scheduling.  We are excited to continue to provide national exposure of their football and men’s and women’s basketball action across our multiple platforms including significant coverage on ESPNU.”

“The breadth of this agreement, both in terms of the overall number of MAC events televised as well as the scope of the ESPN networks involved, truly solidifies the conference’s long-term television future,” said MAC Commissioner Rick Chryst.  “It brings further structure and consistency to our regional and national football television package, while offering important growth for both our men’s and women’s basketball programs.”

In addition to continuing broad distribution of MAC football, the new agreement considerably strengthens ESPN’s commitment to MAC men’s and women’s basketball. There will be a minimum of six (6) MAC men’s or women’s regular-season conference games televised annually on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU, and the MAC will continue to fully participate in ESPN’s highly-successful ESPNU BracketBusters event, which the conference joined as a founding member in 2003.  The agreement also calls for increased involvement of MAC basketball programs in ESPN’s owned-and-operated regular-season tournaments.

The MAC’s two basketball tournament championship games are also a key component of the new agreement, as the MAC women’s final has the potential for selection by ESPNU based upon tournament format. This would mark the first-ever national telecast of the MAC’s women’s championship game. The MAC men’s tournament final will continue to be broadcast on ESPN/ESPN2, where it has been televised since 1987.

The Marathon MAC Football Championship game remains the foundation of a national television football package that will average six (6) nationally-televised games annually on either ESPN or ESPN2 in addition to a minimum of five (5) games per year on ESPNU.  The 2008 championship game, which featured the University at Buffalo’s 42-24 upset of No.12-ranked Ball State University, was the most-watched conference game in MAC history, reaching nearly 1.7 million homes.

The MAC’s nine (9) nationally-televised home games in the 2008 regular-season averaged a 1.1 rating, with six (6) exceeding a 1.0 rating. Ball State’s 31-24 victory at Central Michigan on Wednesday, Nov. 19 garnered a 1.6 rating, making it the highest-rated Tuesday/Wednesday college football telecast in ESPN2 history.

The new agreement calls for continuation of the MAC’s November mid-week national football package, with increased structure and parameters providing multiple games for selection by ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU for those mid-week windows. MAC student-athletes continue to perform at a high level, academically as well as competitively, as the league leads the 11 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences in football graduation rates for public institutions. The MAC is the only conference with more than half of its schools graduating football players at a rate of 70 percent or above in the latest data release by the NCAA.

Regionally, ESPN is making a multi-year commitment to a six-week over-the-air, syndicated football package on broadcast stations across the MAC geography, continuing the success of this effort from the 2007 and 2008 seasons.  The MAC Game-of-the-Week has reached approximately 175,000 households weekly in the first two years of the package, with weekly distribution in the Top 40 markets of Chicago (#3), Philadelphia (#4), Detroit (#11), Cleveland (#17), Indianapolis (#25), Columbus (#32), Cincinnati (#34) and Milwaukee (#35).

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