The NCAA and ESPN announce an eight-year extension of their media rights package
The GIST: The NCAA and ESPN announced an eight-year, $920M extension of their current media rights package yesterday that features broadcasting rights for a record 40 NCAA championships. Although many hoped the NCAA would unbundle women’s March Madness, the basketball tournament is included in the deal. Holdin’ on together — for now.
The details: Negotiated by Endeavor’s IMG and WME Sports, the deal begins this September and pays out $115M per year on average. Comprising 57% of the deal’s annual value, the $65M women’s March Madness tournament was ultimately bundled because it was the “best deal for everybody” by allowing the NCAA to tack on broadcasting rights for less popular sports.
- The good news? This contract ends in 2032, meaning men’s and women’s March Madness will both be circulating the media rights market at the same time, and by then, the women’s tournament may finally be able to reach the $100M mark. Because she’s worth it.
The context: At triple the price per year, the new deal is certainly an upgrade. The previous 14-year bundle was worth $476M total for 29 championships, up from ESPN’s initial 2003 agreement that included women’s March Madness and paid $200M total for 21 championships over 11 years.
The approach: The latest NCAA championship bundle may be worth more than past deals, but women’s basketball fans wanted the women’s tournament to go solo in 2024 rather than receive a salary boost. Its rising popularity and viewership gave it an estimated $81M to $112M annual value, meaning it may have been ready to stand on its own.
- Regardless, the increase means potential revenue sharing considerations for WBB players, and the championship will benefit from ESPN’s high production value and commitment to long-form storytelling.
- As NCAA president Charlie Baker put it, “it's a bundle, but it's a bigger bundle and it's a bigger bundle that will be much better.” Bigger is better, and better is bigger.
Zooming out: Although the NCAA has clarified its thought process, the question remains whether bundling women’s March Madness is the best decision for the growth of the game. FIFA went through growing pains when it unbundled the 2023 Women’s World Cup media rights, but its sponsors came out better for it. Can’t wait.