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Confused by the MAC TV Contract With ESPN?

Written by Madeline Lylo

The Mid-American Conference, or “MAC” for short, is a division 1 sports league comprised largely of universities located in the Midwest. The MAC has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network through 2022-23 to air football and basketball games, but most of the league’s games air on ESPN channels, especially ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN+.

The arrangement is confusing for MAC sports fans. Who is the MAC’s TV deal really with? CBS Sports Network, or ESPN?

The answer is, both.

Here’s how it works.

In 2014, the MAC extended its TV deal with ESPN through 2026. ESPN remains the MAC’s primary, and most important, TV partner, with rights to all of its TV inventory.

why does espn like the mac?

ESPN likes the MAC presumably because it can broadcast games on its streaming service, ESPN+, and the MAC tends to play games at odd times during the week, which allows the games to take center stage in prime time without any competing games to draw viewers away. The MAC’s football schedule is riddled with unusual weekday games, including games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. This scheduling is great for TV execs who understand that even smaller college football games often receive more viewers than “popular” shows.

Alongside the “canonical” ESPN deal, CBS Sports Network has stepped in to buy some of ESPN’s MAC TV inventory via a sublicense agreement.

ESPN signed a deal for all of the MAC’s TV inventory, and then sold the rights for some of the games to CBS Sports Network. This sublicense deal was extended through 2023 back in 2019.

Although CBS Sports Network does have a TV deal with the MAC, they have only purchased the rights to 12 football games and 12 basketball games each season.

This is why you read about the MAC TV contract with CBS Sports Network, but see far more MAC football and basketball games on ESPN properties. ESPN was the original contract, and ESPN controls far more MAC TV rights than does CBS Sports Network.

Read the Latest in MAC Football TV Contract

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