NCAA, ESPN reach broadcast deal for championships that creates women’s basketball payouts

The NCAA has secured a new media rights deal with ESPN for broadcasting its postseason sports, excluding Bowl Subdivision football and the men’s basketball tournament. This comes shortly after record-breaking TV ratings for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, softball, and women’s volleyball championships. The agreement covers 40 championships in the U.S. (21 women’s events and 19 men’s), with a reported value of $920 million over eight years, or $115 million annually, which is nearly three times the previous $40 million contract.

Despite being a significant increase, the deal falls short of expectations and studies suggesting the undervaluation of women’s basketball, with the Kaplan Report estimating its worth at $81 to $112 million. Women’s basketball will continue to be under the ESPN umbrella alongside other NCAA championships. This deal contrasts with the more lucrative men’s basketball tournament rights held by CBS and TNT, amounting to $873 million this year, averaging over $1 billion in the final eight years of the agreement through 2032. In a notable shift, the NCAA plans to implement a unit distribution package for women’s basketball similar to the men’s tournament.

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The association is expected to receive $47,045,000 from ESPN for the 2023-24 fiscal year. While some view the deal as a significant step forward, questions remain about accurately valuing the rapidly growing women’s basketball and whether it may be undervalued in the future. Analysts note the NCAA’s decision to keep women’s basketball within a larger package, indicating recognition of its increased value but also emphasizing the scale of other programming.

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