ESPN, Disney, NFL ink multiyear deal for Madden broadcast rights

Madden NFL 18

ESPN, Disney and the NFL announced on Friday a multiyear deal to broadcast the Madden NFL 18 Championship Series and future leagues surrounding the popular Madden franchise. It's the first multiyear exclusive competitive gaming broadcast agreement for ESPN.

"We're thrilled to continue and expand our relationship with EA and the NFL in not only showcasing to our audiences these world class esports competitions for multiple years, but using the myriad of ESPN and Disney global platforms to tell the incredible stories of these competitors," John Lasker, VP of ESPN digital media programming, said in a statement.

The agreement will broadcast two Madden-based leagues: The Madden NFL 18 Club Championship and the Madden NFL 18 Ultimate League. The club championship tournament, which features players representing all 32 NFL franchises, will begin at the NFL Pro Bowl on Friday in Orlando, Florida, and end with the finals during the week of Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis at the Super Bowl Experience on Thursday.

After the crowning of the club champion, the Madden NFL 18 Ultimate League kicks off on Feb. 2 and runs through April 28 at the NFL draft. The Ultimate League is a multiweek tournament featuring the 16 top Madden players in a one-on-one format. Six players qualified by finishing in the top two at one of the three EA Majors: the Madden NFL 18 Classic, Madden NFL 18 Challenge and Madden NFL 18 Club Championship, with the remaining 10 selected as top series points earners.

"We are excited to partner with EA SPORTS and ESPN to bring the Madden Club Championship and Madden Ultimate League to the millions of Madden NFL fans globally and to broadcast these competitions from our key fan events, like the Super Bowl and the Draft," Chris Halpin, chief strategy officer of the NFL, said in a statement. "We are also thrilled to be the first major professional sports league to have every team represented in a premier esports event. We are confident our fans will love the competition and action."

The agreement encompasses several ESPN and Disney networks. The Madden NFL 18 Club Championship at the Pro Bowl will be on ESPNEWS; the finals at the Super Bowl will be on ESPN2/Deportes; and the Ultimate League Championship final will be on ESPN2. In addition, episodic series featuring the players and the stories behind them will air on Disney XD and ESPN VOD.

"The Madden NFL Ultimate League is purposely designed to focus on our best professional players, allowing viewers to develop player loyalties and follow competitor rivalries. Putting the focus on them will allow viewers to develop player loyalties and follow competitor rivalries," Todd Sitrin, SVP and GM of the competitive gaming division at EA, said in a statement. "Through this partnership with ESPN and Disney XD, we'll provide ongoing coverage for fans worldwide across a variety of ESPN and Disney platforms."

The schedule is as follows:

• Madden NFL 18 Club Championship from the Pro Bowl, Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPNEWS
• Madden NFL 18 Club Championship Final from Super Bowl LII, Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2/Deportes
• 12 one-hour episodes of the Madden NFL 18 Ultimate League Regular Season, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET running Feb. to April on Disney XD and ESPN VOD
• Half-hour episodes of the Madden NFL 18 Ultimate League Series, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET running weekly from April 3 to May 1 on ESPN2/ESPN VOD
• Madden Ultimate League Championship final from the NFL draft, April 28 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2