DALLAS (AP) — Conference USA’s new media rights deal with ESPN and CBS will include midweek football games throughout October as the league tries to increase visibility similarly to the way the Mid-American Conference has by playing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays late in the season.
The multiyear deal announced Thursday starts next season as Conference USA goes through extensive membership turnover.
Six current C-USA members are leaving after this season to join the American Athletic Conference. Liberty, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State are joining C-USA next year and Kennesaw State is scheduled to join in 2024.
C-USA will eventually be a 10-school conference, keeping UTEP, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky.
The new deal gives CBS Sports Network the top weekly selection of C-USA football games and men’s basketball games.
CBS Sports Network will also air the C-USA football championship, the men’s basketball tournament semifinals and championship game, the women’s basketball championship game and conference title games for baseball and softball.
The new agreement puts more C-USA games on ESPN networks than its current contracts, which often had fans scrambling to figure out where to watch their teams — including Facebook streams and the NFL Network.
“This is a major step forward for Conference USA in terms of our multimedia rights as it relates to streamlined exposure, accessibility for our fans and greater financial resources for our members,” Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement.
All October conference games will be played midweek. ESPN networks will carry eight of those games a year.
The MAC began using a midweek-heavy football schedule about 10 years ago and now plays all of its games before Saturday throughout November. MACtion has become a popular brand, though playing Tuesday and Wednesday nights is not always easy for players and coaches and fans who want to attend the games.
But for a conference in transition such as C-USA, a similar approach was appealing.
“Building on our strong relationships with CBS and ESPN enabled us to provide increased exposure and consistent broadcast homes for our membership and fans as we continue to see the landscape of Conference USA and college athletics evolve.” MacLeod said.
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