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ESPN Signs 8-Year Extension with Sun-Belt

Brandon Contes

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Set to expire following the 2019-20 college season, ESPN and the Sun Belt Conference came to an agreement extending their contract an additional eight years.

“We have enjoyed a long relationship with ESPN since its founding in 1979 and we look forward to being featured on its newest platform, ESPN Plus, which promises to revolutionize how fans of the Sun Belt and all of college sports watch their favorite teams in action,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson.

The ESPN Plus streaming service, which is expected to launch late this month or early April, will play a large role in providing a platform for the Sun Belt Conference. According to ESPN, beginning in the first season of the extension more than 500 Sun Belt events will be broadcast, but only a small percentage of those will air on a traditional television network. A minimum of 10 football games, six men’s basketball games, and the conference championships from all sports are guaranteed to be on linear television.

“We are thrilled to take that relationship to a new level via this new, innovative and exclusive extension, while also deepening our commitment to serving college sports fans. More Sun Belt events and content than ever before will now be available to fans however they choose to consume them in a more personalized and targeted manner,” said ESPN Executive Vice President of Scheduling and Acquisitions Burke Magnus.

The previous contract had ESPN pay Sun Belt Conference schools about $100,000 annually. Terms of the eight-year extension were not released, but according to an Associate Press report, a source stated those payouts will increase in the new deal.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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Report: TNT Still in Play to Retain NBA Media Rights

The report states that no official offers have been finalized at the moment, hence the lack of having to match an offer.

Barrett Sports Media

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TNT Sports Logo
(Illustration) | TNT Sports Logo – Courtesy: Warner Bros. Discovery | Studio J – Courtesy: Raeford Dwyer Photography

Negotiations for the next round of media rights for the NBA remain ongoing as we await a final resolution. Reports have stated that The Walt Disney Company and Amazon Prime Video have reached the framework of agreements for respective rights packages, presumably leaving one more series of games that could go to the incumbent Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNT Sports or Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

If Warner Bros. Discovery were to lose the NBA, there is ambiguity towards provisions surrounding matching rights; however, the company has not yet reached that point, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports. The “B” package would reportedly contain a conference final every other year while the “C” package would reportedly include the in-season tournament, play-in games and early-round playoff series.

TNT Sports, formerly known as Turner Sports, is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery, which has had a relationship with the league in various iterations since the 1984-85 season. Although TNT Sports president and chief executive officer Luis Silberwasser stated at the company’s Upfront event last week that it was looking forward to next season and reaching an agreement that makes sense for all parties, it reportedly may need to pay more for less inventory. NBCUniversal is reportedly set to bid $2.5 billion a year for NBA rights, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, which would more than double the reported $1.2 billion paid annually by Warner Bros. Discovery.

The report states that no official offers have been finalized at the moment, hence the lack of having to match an offer. Alex Sherman of CNBC reported that potential litigation could take place if Warner Bros. Discovery matches but the league decides to accept NBCUniversal’s deal. Charles Barkley, studio analyst for Inside the NBA, has expressed on numerous occasions that the negotiations are stressful and that there is uncertainty surrounding the result. Barkley, along with his colleagues Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny “The Jet” Smith, all reportedly have opt-out clauses in their contracts should Warner Bros. Discovery lose broadcasting rights to the NBA.

TNT will be the broadcast home of the Western Conference Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves beginning on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST. Kevin Harlan, Stan Van Gundy, Reggie Miller and Allie LaForce will be on the call, while the Inside the NBA crew will provide pregame, halftime and postgame coverage. Golden State Warriors forward and four-time NBA champion Draymond Green will join the show throughout the series as well, first reported by Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch.

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TNT Sports Draws Its Largest Early Round NBA Playoff Audience Ever

The game delivered 8.41 million viewers across TNT and truTV.

Barrett Sports Media

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TNT Sports Logo (2024 Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront)
Courtesy: Derek Futterman, Barrett Sports Media

This past weekend, TNT Sports had one of the best sporting events you can have, a Game 7. The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets were tied at three games apiece in their second round NBA playoff matchup and with superstars Anthony Edwards and Nikola Jokic and a Sunday night primetime slot, it was set up to do a big number. According to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch the game delivered 8.41 million viewers across TNT and truTV making it the most viewed first or second round playoff game ever to air on TNT.

Lewis reports the previous high for TNT was an Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics Game 7 in 2009, but also notes out-of-home viewing was not being tracked back then so it isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. He said the game had the fourth-largest audience for an opening or second round game since 2012 on any network.

The Pacers and the Knicks also played a Game 7 which went on while the final round of the PGA Championship was happening and brought in 6.45 million viewers on ABC.

Overall, Lewis shared the NBA playoffs are averaging 3.77 million viewers, which includes games on ABC, ESPN, TNT, truTV, and NBA TV. That number represents a decrease of 11% in viewership from a year ago.

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Stephen A. Smith’s ‘Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media’ Now Out on ESPN+

“We’re diving deep into the heart of the game, breaking down barriers and showcasing the evolution of sports discourse.”

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Graphic for an ESPN+ Original Series, Up for Debate
Courtesy: ESPN

The new three-part ESPN+ Original Series, ‘Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media,’ debuted earlier today. Viewers can now stream the series on ESPN+, which delves into the history of sports talk debate programming over the past seven decades– from Howard Cosell to Stephen A. Smith to Cam’Ron– and examines how this type of sports discourse has evolved and reached its current state, as well as what the future may hold for it.

“We’re diving deep into the heart of the game, breaking down barriers and showcasing the evolution of sports discourse,” said Executive Producer Stephen A. Smith in a release. “From the legends who paved the way to the current Kings and Queens of the mic, we’re bringing you a front-row seat to the passion and intensity that fuel debates in today’s generation of sports. So buckle up! Here we come.”

Religion of Sports’ Gotham Chopra, also an Executive Producer on the series stated, “We’re thrilled to partner with Stephen A. Smith, a pioneer and undisputed legend in the world of sports talk, on this entertaining and fascinating series. Highlighting both the evolution of sports media and a wide range of beloved personalities, we know that fans of sports, media, and passionate debate are going to love it.”

Several sports personalities are featured in the series including Troy Aikman, Mina Kimes, Molly Qerim, Shannon Sharpe, Michael Wilbon, Hannah Storm, Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo, Jemele Hill, Bomani Jones, Cari Champion, and Cam’Ron, and others.

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