January 5, 2024
Women’s basketball to be included in new broadcast deal between NCAA, ESPN
Agreement includes rights to 21 women's championships
On Thursday, the NCAA announced that they have agreed to an 8-year, $115 million deal with ESPN to stream 40 championship games annually, which includes all divisions of women’s basketball.
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“ESPN and the NCAA have enjoyed a strong and collaborative relationship for more than four decades, and we are thrilled that it will continue as part of this new, long-term agreement,” said ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “The ESPN networks and platforms will exclusively present a record number of championships, including all rounds of several marquee events that, together with the NCAA, we have grown over time. This unprecedented deal also further strengthens The Walt Disney Company’s industry-leading commitment to women’s sports and will help fuel our continued growth, including in the critical streaming space.”
The agreement, starting in September, includes streaming rights for 21 women’s championships, 19 men’s championship games and all women’s basketball divisions. The annual value of the Division I women’s basketball tournament is estimated to be around $65 million.
“The NCAA has worked in earnest over the past year to ensure that this new broadcast agreement provides the best possible outcome for all NCAA championships, and in particular women’s championships,” NCAA president Charlie Baker said in a press release. “Over the past several years, ESPN has demonstrated increased investment in NCAA championship coverage, and the Association is pleased to continue to provide a platform for student-athletes to shine. Having one, multi-platform home to showcase our championships provides additional growth potential along with a greater experience for the viewer and our student-athletes.”
During a press conference on Thursday, Baker further emphasized that ESPN is uniquely positioned to provide coverage across different locations, an advantage other partners may not be able to provide.
“It’s very consistent with where most of the experts were when they gave us ranges when this whole process began,” Baker said. “I do believe that the tournament is going to be played in many, many settings over the course of the next eight years…It’s going to move around and having a partner like ESPN, which knows how to play in multiple spaces…gives us a tremendous partner to actually deliver on and expand on the success of that tournament so far.”
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While the media deal does represent a significant investment in women’s basketball, some believe that it doesn’t go far enough. For men’s basketball, the NCAA has a revenue sharing program that gives performance units for success in the NCAA Tournament. Currently, women’s basketball does not have access to performance units.
“[The ESPN media deal] is a great step forward and it really shows how much progress has been made in just one year really,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I think this definitely paves the way for a units program similar to the men. There’s still a lot left that we can accomplish and I look forward to it.”
Baker addressed this gap during Thursday’s press conference, and implied that this is something the NCAA is working towards.
“There’s a genuine commitment to put a program in place and I’m not going to speak more to what the details of that might look like because there’s a lot of different ways to structure it,” Baker said. “But I do think it’s something that a lot of people are committed to doing, and we’re pretty excited about it. The investments people have made in women’s basketball are clearly paying off.”
Howard Megdal contributed reporting to this story.
Written by Aya Abdeen
Aya Abdeen is a student in sports journalism at Arizona State University and has been a contributing writer for The Next Hoops since December 2022. Her work has also appeared on AZPreps365.