Before that, C-USA will be negotiating new rights agreements starting this year for deals expiring from ESPN, CBS Sports Network and STADIUM after 2017-18, while their agreement with beIN Sports runs for an additional year to 2018-19. BYU's agreement with ESPN for football will expire after the 2018 season and they should be working through exclusive negotiations in the near future. The WCC, where BYU competes in most other sports, has its contract with ESPN expire after 2018-19 as well.
(The MAC, if you're wondering, starts the ten year extension they signed on their previous TV deal during the 2017-18 athletic year)
EDIT: BYU's contract has an option year for 2019 that can be exercised by ESPN, so they could be included in this group of conferences. Per AD Tom Holmoe, they'll be talking with ESPN soon per an interview from March.
These conferences plus Army all hit the market at roughly the same time with sports broadcasting at a bit of a crossroads. Yes, the Big Ten got paid, but in the process ESPN laid off a bunch of on-camera personnel and are looking to retool key parts of their programming. Digital-centric broadcaster STADIUM is entering the market this summer. The American believes that there is a Power 6 that they are a part of and the Mountain West has been unhappy with how often their football games end up as evening games which has contributed to a decline in season ticket bases for at least one Mountain West school.
The movement of about 25 Big Ten games to FOX Sports plus the creation of the ACC Network, whether it happens using existing channel space like ESPNEWS or a completely new outlet similar to how the SEC Network started up, should provide some open space on Saturdays for a few more games from these conferences, probably on ESPN2 and ESPNU, but a better judge of that would be once we see how many telecast windows ESPN ends up using across their networks during the 2017 season.
Where the Group of Five conferences do hold value to ESPN is on Thursday & Friday nights, especially when games are scheduled vs. Power 5 schools or for a school that is expected to compete for the Group of Five spot within the New Years Six. For the 2017 football season, they have at least one game air on ESPN or ESPN2 for 13 of 23 through mid-November. I excluded Thanksgiving & Black Friday, more because Black Friday has a lot of TV windows, but even that day you'll find two American Athletic & one Mountain West game for their TV partners in 2017 with the two American games to air on ABC or ESPN.
Eyeballing the table at Sports Media Watch for the 2016 season, most of the non-Power 5 Friday games had 500K-600K average viewers where the Thursday night games typically drew above a million viewers, though Houston as a potential New Years Six representative for the Group of Five helped drive some of those numbers. Yes, the Thursday night games go against the NFL and the Friday games shift to ESPN2 once the NBA is in season.
CBS Sports Network, on the other side of the equation, is dependent on the Group of Five conferences and, right now, ESPN provides them some of that content with their MAC and American live events coming to CBSSN through sublicenses. That handcuffs them a bit, because that content could go away if ESPN opts not to sublicense to them or the American were to move on from ESPN and doesn't have CBSSN as a direct rightsholder. CBSSN will lose Navy as a direct partner next season as their football rights are to return to ESPN after this season. Some of the Mountain West's anger regarding evening start times extends to CBSSN as well. All of this leaves CBSSN with a lot of grey area with respect to how much programming space they truly have to offer a conference if they want to be the primary rightsholder for any of these conferences.
My early gut feeling is that ESPN will try to engage with each of these conferences they have rights for to try to retain them, potentially earlier than their exclusive negotiating window to try to take advantage of an uncertain marketplace as we truly don't have a great idea what major digital companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Netflix, Amazon, etc. will pay for college football and, to be honest, college football that is not from one of the conferences that draws a lot of viewers on Saturdays. They'll work to provide an increase in rights without overbidding for programming that, right now, costs a lot less to own the rights for. Maybe hoping the conference will take a discount in return for a longer agreement.
As for Army, I feel would stay with CBS Sports Network, A hunch, nothing more. Army wasn't really thrilled with games on ESPN3 a few years back and both Army and Navy have extended their agreement with CBS to carry the Army-Navy game well into the next decade.
Where I do think these conferences have some wiggle room, potentially, is the pattern several TV agreements have moved towards: caps on the number of games a TV partner can carry with special provisions, such as the Mountain West, Pac-12 and Big Ten granting a maximum number of games to each primary rightsholder or C-USA signing their various agreements, though C-USA's agreements were more out of necessity and not necessarily by design. For example, I can envision scenarios where a rightsholder doesn't increase the dollar amount of their rights fee to one of these conferences or provides a smaller increase, but instead relinquishes their status as the exclusive rightsholder in exchange for terms that are more favorable (ie. taking 10-15 games, maybe nearly all Thursday & Friday games in football or games on a specific night of the week in basketball). If the conference can then swing it where they still have good inventory for a second or third rightsholder to buy in, then it could remain lucrative for them, especially if they want to test the digital waters for themselves.
So what do you see happening in three years? Shorter or longer agreements? More or less use of linear television in these agreements?