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AP source: American Athletic makes 12-year TV deal with ESPN

By PAT EATON-ROBBMarch 20, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The American Athletic Conference and ESPN have reached agreement on a new 12-year television contract that will increase revenue to the league’s schools but is far less than the money provided to their Power Five counterparts.

An official with knowledge of the negotiations says the conference will receive about $1 billion over the next dozen years and in exchange ESPN will get the rights to AAC games, many of which will be broadcast on ESPN-plus, the company’s a la carte digital platform.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contracts have not been signed, said the deal will provide the conference with about $83.3 million per year, with each member school receiving an average of just under $7 million a year.

The agreement, first reported by Sports Business Journal Daily, runs from the 2020-21 academic year through 2031-32.

The deal will more than triple the per school payouts the AAC will provide its members for media rights under its current contract, but falls well short of providing a cash infusion that would support the league’s narrative of being “Power Six” school.

The most recent deal the Big Ten signed with Fox and ESPN will pay the conference $2.64 billion over six years. Among the Power Five, the Atlantic Coast Conference had the smallest revenue distribution payouts to its members last year at an average of $26.6 million. That number is likely to go up with the launch of ESPN’s ACC Network in August.

But the American’s deal is better than other major college football conferences in the so-called Group of Five.

The Mountain West, which is nearing the end of its deal with ESPN, pays its members about $1 million per season from media rights deal. The Mid-American Conference is in the middle of 13-year deal with ESPN that pays the conference about $10 million per year to split between its 12 members. Conference USA and the Sun Belt have TV deals that pay about $500,000 annually.

The American’s deal will result in some football games being broadcast on ABC. Other football and basketball games will appear on ESPN’s cable television networks, including ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

But most basketball and other AAC sports will be provided only to those who subscribe to ESPN-plus, a separate digital platform that costs just under $5 a month.

The deal will allow for the broadcast up about 1,000 AAC events per year on ESPN-plus by its third year, the official said.

CBS retains the rights to a small number of basketball games and Navy some football games.

The ESPN contract also includes language that would protect the network, should marquee schools, such as UCF, Cincinnati or UConn leave for another conference.

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