Athletics News
BIG EAST INKS BIG DEALS WITH ESPN

Aug. 29, 2006

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The BIG EAST Conference will officially expand upon its long and successful history of developing innovative and creative television and publicity concepts with the announcement that it will extend its life-long television association with ESPN via a pair of unprecedented six-year contract extensions in football and men's and women's basketball, which run through the year 2013-14.

BIG EAST Conference Commissioner Michael Tranghese has termed the signing of this contract extension as one of the most significant events in the 27-year history of the Conference. Both founded in 1979, ESPN and the BIG EAST have enjoyed a relationship that has existed for the lives of both entities. These contract extensions will ensure a long-term continuation of that relationship.

"Several years ago, many so-called experts viewed our reconfigured conference with some skepticism," Tranghese acknowledged. "Today, that notion is put to rest given the unprecedented national exposure and high market value that ESPN has assigned to the new BIG EAST Conference." Seven BIG EAST Conference members are located in the top 12 media markets (DMAs) and 12 members are located in the top 34 media markets (DMAs), covering over 25 percent of all U.S. markets - by far, the largest coverage of any conference.

The number of guaranteed BIG EAST Conference appearances in the sports of football and men's and women's basketball has been expanded to unprecedented levels under these new agreements. Further, the six-year pacts ensure that the BIG EAST Conference will continue to have a solid foothold in national and regional television and new media exposure in the foreseeable future.

"Although I am certainly pleased that ESPN has acknowledged our basketball success in this agreement, I am even more delighted that it has recognized our football prowess after only one year of competition as a reconfigured conference," added Tranghese. This is indeed a direct reflection upon the vision and hard work of both our football coaches and administrators over the past three years."

In extending the agreements with ESPN, the BIG EAST Conference and its television negotiating committee met their two primary objectives:

  • To optimize exposure levels and opportunities for all 16 member institutions in the context of the unique diversity of their home market settings
  • To bring BIG EAST product to the host of new and consumer-based platforms on the New Media Horizon

"I am so very gratified and pleased to know that we will continue our life-long association with ESPN - our television partner since our inception," said Tranghese, who has been with the BIG EAST since the league opened its doors. "In so many ways, the two of us have grown up together in the marketplace and mutually benefited from the association on numerous fronts."

"As a mainstay on ESPN for nearly three decades, the BIG EAST has delivered many memorable moments," said George Bodenheimer, President, ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports. "We are thrilled to expand that long-standing relationship through this unprecedented collaborative effort, which will supply conference action to fans however they experience sports."

The new contract extensions give ESPN, which is on the cutting edge of new media technology, the right to distribute its BIG EAST inventory on any new potential consumer-based platforms. "We will be on the crest of the wave of the future," Tranghese said. "The BIG EAST is proud to allow ESPN to explore new ways to give the Conference even more national exposure through innovative technology."

In addition to expanding upon its already extensive coverage of BIG EAST football and women's basketball, these extensions will also continue to ensure that the BIG EAST remains the most televised conference in the country for men's basketball.

FOOTBALL

Television coverage of BIG EAST Conference regular season football on both ESPN and ABC has been extended and upgraded, ensuring that the league will have a solid television and new media platform for growth under its new configuration

"West Virginia helped to validate our football credibility with its Sugar Bowl victory last year," said Commissioner Mike Tranghese who continued, "ESPN has further validated our status and stature by recognizing our value, expanding our exposure and extending our agreement through the year 2013. This year, with a pair of teams ranked in the top 15 in most of the preseason polls, we are clearly poised to continue to compete at the highest level."

A minimum of 17 home games involving BIG EAST Conference teams will be televised on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, including four Thursday night games and two Sunday night games on ESPN or ESPN2. In fact, this commitment represents the largest number of guaranteed appearances on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 in the history of BIG EAST Conference football.

At least one conference game will be a part of ESPN's Saturday Prime Time package and two games - one on ABC or ESPN, the other on ESPN2 - will be on Championship Saturday in December.

In addition, ESPN Regional, the nation's largest football regional network reaching more than 30 million homes, will broadcast nine games and will continue its Game of the Week package, which is syndicated throughout BIG EAST markets and beyond. Most games produced by ERT are also offered as part of the ESPN GamePlan pay subscription service.

Finally, the conference will also have a minimum of five home contests televised by ESPNU. The minimum number of football games involving BIG EAST teams on television increases further when taking into account appearances in non-conference away contests.

"The future of BIG EAST Conference football continues to grow every year. This type of national television exposure will continue to supply our membership with a very real and tangible platform to cultivate and nurture their programs while at the same time providing a vehicle for their fans and constituents to follow their ongoing success."

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Every single intra-conference men's basketball contest will be televised. As a result, the BIG EAST Conference and its 16 members will reach more households than any other conference in the country. Specifically, ESPN will produce 139 of the 144 available regular season BIG EAST intra-conference men's basketball games - all except those five games belonging to CBS -- and will televise those contests on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN Regional (ERT), ESPNU or ESPN360.

ESPN or ESPN2 will broadcast a minimum of 60 BIG EAST games each year: 49 regular season games (41 conference and eight home non-conference) and all 11 BIG EAST Championship games. Consequently, the BIG EAST will have four to five games broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2 each week during the conference season.

The BIG EAST will continue to be the only conference in the country to have each and every one of its men's basketball tournament games televised by ESPN. There were record audiences for the 2006 BIG EAST Championship, including the final game, which was the highest-rated cable tournament final of the year (2.58).

In addition, ESPN Regional will carry a minimum of 80 games (66 conference and 14 home non-conference) and continue its weekend Game of the Week package, which reaches approximately 30 percent of the nation's homes and has a total household reach of more than 30 million. Most games offered by ERT are also available nationally as part of ESPN Full Court, the pay subscription college basketball outer-market service.

Breakdown: BIG EAST Men's Basketball Games on TV:

  • Minimum 60 games on ESPN or ESPN2
    • 49 regular season games - 41 conference and eight home non-conference
    • 11 BIG EAST Championship games

  • 110 additional regular season games broadcast on the remaining ESPN platforms

    • 80 games on ESPN Regional (66 conference and 14 home non-conference)
    • 30 conference games on ESPNU/ESPN360

  • Minimum of 10 conference or non-conference games on CBS

    The above gives the BIG EAST a minimum grand total of 180 television games each year.

    The BIG EAST will continue to be featured each week during the conference season on ESPN's Big Monday. A new element to the agreement will allow ESPN to also feature a BIG EAST Conference match up on Thursday each week. The agreement also provides that each BIG EAST team have a minimum of 10 games telecast on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic or ERT.

    WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
    The BIG EAST and ESPN have also expanded and extended their women's basketball partnership -- allowing the league's women's basketball product to reach more homes than any other conference. Not only has ESPN increased its guaranteed annual average appearances on ESPN or ESPN2 to a new league record of 11, but it has put its full resources behind a first-of-its-kind ESPN Regional BIG EAST Women's Basketball Game of the Week package.

    ERT will produce the eight-week package and will use its resources as the nation's largest syndicator to reach BIG EAST markets and beyond each Saturday at the same time slot during the conference season.

    "During each of the last two seasons, ESPN has telecast more BIG EAST women's basketball games than contractually obligated," Tranghese said. "The value of our women's basketball product has reached an all-time high, and ESPN is furthering its commitment by partnering with us to create this unprecedented women's game of the week package."

    BIG EAST women's basketball will also have expanded regular season coverage on ESPNU. ESPN's all-college-sports network will broadcast a minimum of 15 appearances annually involving league teams - a potential increase of 10 from the current contract.

    Under the new agreement, the BIG EAST will televise each of its conference tournament games for the first time in league history. ESPN or ESPN2 will continue to broadcast the BIG EAST Championship game, and any combination of ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU will telecast the conference tournament semifinals. If ESPNU doesn't exercise its right to broadcast the first-round and quarterfinal games, the BIG EAST and ERT will strive to syndicate those games as an extension to the regular season Game of the Week package.

    BIG EAST TELEVISION NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE

    Commissioner Tranghese concluded his press conference by publicly thanking the BIG EAST Conference television negotiation committee consisting of Athletic Directors Daryl Gross (Syracuse), Vince Nicastro (Villanova), Bob Mulcahy (Rutgers), Tom Jurich (Louisville) and Jeff Hathaway (Connecticut) as well as Kevin O'Malley and Senior Associate Commissioner John Marinatto and Associate Commissioners Tom Odjakjian, Donna DeMarco, Dan Gavitt and Nick Carparelli for their leadership, assistance and support in reaching this new agreement.

    THE BIG EAST CONFERENCE

    The BIG EAST is the largest and most diverse Division I conference in the country. It was formed in 1979 and represents the athletic interests of 16 member institutions including the University of Cincinnati, University of Connecticut, DePaul University, Georgetown University, University of Louisville, Marquette University, University of Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh, Providence College, Rutgers University, St. John's University, Seton Hall University, University of South Florida, Syracuse University, Villanova University and West Virginia University. The BIG EAST Conference has captured 25 national championships in six different sports and is a founding member of the Bowl Championship Series. For more information on the Conference and its membership, please visit www.bigeast.org.

    ESPN, INC.

    ESPN, Inc. is the world's leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment company featuring a portfolio of over 50 multimedia sports assets. The company is comprised of seven domestic television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN Today), ESPN and ESPN2 HD simulcast services, ESPN Regional Television, ESPN International (networks, syndication, radio, web sites), ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Enterprises, ESPN Zones (sports-themed restaurants), and other growing new businesses including ESPN360 (Broadband), Mobile ESPN, ESPN on Demand, ESPN Interactive and ESPN PPV. Based in Bristol, Ct., ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The Hearst Corporation holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN.

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