Duff Tittle | Posted: 30 Jan 2020 | Updated: 24 Jun 2022

ESPN and BYU reach new media rights agreement

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BYU and ESPN reach new media rights agreement
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Cougars also finalize multi-year bowl agreements

BYU & ESPN Exposure Photo and Video Gallery

PROVO, Utah (January 30, 2020) — Brigham Young University and ESPN, Inc. today announced a new seven-year media rights agreement for BYU home football games that will continue their longstanding relationship through the 2026 college football season.

In addition to the home television rights agreement, BYU and ESPN Events—a division of ESPN—have also reached agreement for the Cougars to participate in ESPN owned and operated bowl games in 2020, 2022 and 2024. Under a separate agreement, the Cougars are also slated to appear in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2021, 2023 and 2025.

“We have been fortunate to have an amazing relationship with ESPN for decades,” said BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe. “There is great collaboration because the relationship is truly a partnership and continues to get stronger every year. We are very grateful for all that ESPN does to support and promote BYU Athletics.

“We are also grateful for the invitation to participate in multiple Independence Bowl games in Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s a historic bowl game with a rich history. It has been a real pleasure working with Independence Bowl Executive Director Missy Setters and ESPN to create this unique opportunity for our football program and our fans throughout the South.”

ESPN-BYU media rights agreement

Under the new regular-season media rights agreement, ESPN will continue to televise nationally a minimum of four BYU home football games each season. A minimum of three games will be carried on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, while additional games can air on the three same networks or ESPNU. As part of the agreement, at least one game each season will be carried live on BYUtv. All games will be available to stream on the ESPN App.

“BYU is a key component of our extensive college football media rights portfolio and we are pleased to continue the relationship well into the future,” said Pete Derzis, ESPN Senior Vice President of Programming and Events.  “The new agreement will build upon our last nine seasons, as we collectively work together showcasing the Cougars to a national audience and their extensive fan base.”

In September 2010, BYU became the first FBS football program to sign an exclusive media rights partnership with ESPN to televise its home games. The original agreement was an eight-year deal from 2011 to 2018 that included a one-year option that extended the contract through the 2019 football season. Over the past nine seasons the Cougars have played 86 football games—an average of 9.6 games per year—on ABC/ESPN networks—50 of those games were at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

With ESPN as its media rights holder, 74-percent of BYU’s football games since 2011 have been televised nationally, ranking the Cougars 17th in the country and No. 3 in the West just behind USC and Stanford.

In nine seasons of independence, BYU has played 43 games versus schools from a Power 5 conference, including 21 Pac-12, six SEC, six Big Ten, four ACC, four Big 12, and two versus Notre Dame. The Cougars have faced teams from 32 different states, played in nine NFL stadiums and two MLB ballparks.

BYU has already scheduled numerous high-profile home games that are now set to air on an ESPN network over the next several seasons. Among the opponents locked in are Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, Boise State, Central Florida, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Stanford, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. Overall, BYU currently has 31 future football games scheduled with current P5 conference teams.

“Our goals in going independent in football included the opportunity to increase our national exposure and provide better access to our football program for our national fanbase,” Holmoe said. “We also wanted to schedule home-and-home games with many of the storied football programs in the country. Thanks to our relationship with ESPN, we have been able to accomplish these goals.”

In addition to the new football media rights agreement, ESPN also holds first-tier broadcast rights for BYU men’s basketball through a recent eight-year agreement with the West Coast Conference. As part of a new deal that continues through the 2026-27 season, ESPN networks will broadcast 17 regular-season WCC games per year, along with the men’s quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game of the conference basketball tournament. 

Over the past eight seasons in the WCC, BYU basketball has played 104 games on one of the ESPN networks, an average of 13 games per year.

BYU bowl agreements

The new bowl agreement with ESPN Events provides a bowl tie-in for BYU in 2020, 2022 and 2024 if the Cougars are bowl eligible and not selected to participate in a New Year’s Six bowl. Since 2011, the Cougars have played in four of the 16 bowls owned and operated by ESPN Events, including the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, 2015 Las Vegas Bowl, 2014 Miami Beach Bowl (now Frisco Bowl) and 2011 Armed Forces Bowl.

Under the terms of the new Independence Bowl agreement, the Cougars are slated to appear in Shreveport in 2021 and 2025 versus an opponent from Conference USA and in 2023 versus a team from the Pac-12. The Independence Bowl, televised on an ESPN Network, is the 11th-oldest bowl game in the country and will play its 45th edition in 2020. It was founded in 1976 and is played annually in December at Independence Stadium in Shreveport.

“BYU is steeped in college football tradition,” said Independence Bowl Chairman Art Carmody IV. “They have provided some of the sport’s most iconic moments and greatest players, and we are excited to feature this great program in our historic game. We look forward to having BYU in future Independence Bowls and look forward to hosting their tremendous fan base in Shreveport.”

As part of both BYU bowl agreements, the Cougars also have an option to potentially participate in the Cheez-It Bowl in Arizona should its conference tie-ins (Big Ten and Big 12) be unable to provide an opponent. If applicable, that option can be exercised in lieu of one Independence Bowl and one ESPN Events bowl game. The Cheez-It Bowl airs on an ESPN network. 

Since its first appearance in the 1974 Fiesta Bowl, BYU has played in 37 bowl games over the past 45 seasons, including 14 of the past 15 years.

ESPN, Inc. is the leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment entity featuring the broadest portfolio of multimedia sports assets with over 50 business entities. ESPN launched on September 7, 1979, and is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The network has televised many of the great games in Cougars football history, beginning with ESPN’s first live regular-season college football telecast in 1984 where BYU defeated No. 3 ranked Pitt to begin its undefeated run to a national championship.

ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of 34 collegiate sporting events nationwide. The roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games, the FCS opening-weekend game, 16 college bowl games, 11 college basketball events, a college softball event and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 375-plus hours of live programming, reaches nearly 64 million viewers and attracts over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and Tampa, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.