New Mid-American Conference, ESPN Deal Includes Institution-Run Production Workflows

ESPN and the Mid-American Conference (MAC) have extended their exclusive rights agreement through 2026-27 and with it will come another collection of colleges that will invest in video-production infrastructures to produce live, digital events for the “Worldwide Leader.”

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher (left) and ESPN's Burke Magnus met today in Bristol to formally announce a new rights agreement that extends to 2026-27.

MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher (left) and ESPN’s Burke Magnus met today in Bristol to formally announce a new rights agreement that extends to 2026-27. (Photo Courtesy: Mid-American Conference)

ESPN, the MAC, and its member institutions will collaborate to develop in-house production capabilities on all 12 campuses that will produce live content for ESPN3.

“This is a very exciting project to work on,” says MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher. “I think the schools are really looking forward to it. It provides a unique opportunity for our schools to partner with ESPN. It brings an interesting educational component to this that wasn’t there before.”

ESPN has found great success in working hand-in-hand with college and university athletic departments in getting their staffs and students directly involved in live event production and building out control rooms and fiber infrastructures on their respective campuses. It first began with the network’s ESPN3 College Initiative and blew up in a big way with the heavy investments Southeastern Conference schools made for the SEC Network.

Much like with the SEC, the MAC’s member institutions are all currently at various levels of video production capabilities, from nonexistent to advanced. The conference and ESPN expect the ramp-up process to take anywhere from two to three years at some campuses.

Schools such as Ball State and Kent State – who have strong video programs already in place that produce streaming events for their respective athletic websites – will likely be looked to as leaders within the league as this process moves forward.

Once all 12 schools are technologically prepared, ESPN and the MAC offices expect to distribute a minimum of 420 events a year (a minimum of 120 men’s basketball games).

“You’ll start to see some of this roll out immediately this season as some [institutions] are more ready than others,” says Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president, programming & acquisitions. “It’s really a no-lose proposition. The schools that get ready get their content on immediately, it deepens the exposure that the conference gets overall, it provides real-life experience for students and professors, and it’s a way to do things more efficiently as the imperative has become to get as much content produced as possible.

“We’re enthused about it,” he continues. “I think the member institutions are enthused about it. We’re going to walk before we run here and make sure everyone is doing it within their capabilities, but it’s an exciting prospect to us that will result in hundreds upon hundreds of Mid-American events being produced and distributed.”

That deal also ensures that every MAC-controlled football matchup will be available on one of ESPN’s national networks or via an ESPN sublicense agreement with additional outlets. The football schedule will continue to spotlight its regular Thursday, Friday, and Saturday games, select Tuesday and Wednesday primetime matchups, and an annual “MACsgiving” contest on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Additionally, ESPN will continue to provide multi-platform coverage of regular-season men’s basketball and the men’s basketball conference tournament.