It was a big week for the American Athletic Conference. Aside from sending four teams to the NCAA Tournament, the AAC and ESPN have reportedly agreed to a 12-year deal, averaging $83.3 million per year starting in 2020-21 and extending through the 2031-32 academic year.
The deal comes out to about $7 million per year per school, a significant upgrade from the current deal that pays a little less than $2 million per school.
The deal also has something important to many UConn fans — flexibility. The AAC contract extends past the current Power 5 TV deals, and if the contract does not have a grant of rights —which would essentially make it impossible to change conferences — it opens up the possibility for schools to leave if a spot in a more lucrative conference opened up.
Aside from the money boost, the biggest news out of the deal is the new broadcasting arrangements. Games will be aired on ESPN+, ESPN’s subscription service that costs $4.99 per month. It is unclear if UConn will keep their current contract with SNY, which airs a select number of men’s basketball games and most women’s basketball games.
This is a boost for non-revenue sports like soccer, baseball and softball, whose games are not typically aired. While revenue sports will still air some games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, the majority of men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football games will be broadcast on ESPN+. It’s good news if you like ESPN+, but bad news if you feel the conference deserves more national exposure on par with other Power 5 conferences.
Overall, the deal significantly increases the amount of money schools will receive per year, which is an up-front positive in comparison to the last TV deal. But with the Power 5 conferences set to renew their set of contracts in 2025 and the uncertainty of ESPN+’s viability going forward, it will be several years before this deal can truly be called a success.