ESPN Inks 12-Year Deal for Rights to New College Football Playoff

ESPN has plenty to be grateful for going into the Thanksgiving holiday, agreeing to a 12-year deal in principle for the exclusive media rights for the newly created college football playoff.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a person familiar with the negotiations said the deal is worth about $470 million annually or $5.64 billion for the duration of the contract.

The agreement, which will begin after the 2014 regular season and continue through after the 2025 regular season, gives ESPN the rights to all games that are involved in the new post-season arrangement following previously announced deals for the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. The deal includes the national championship game and semifinals, as well as other bowl games that will be part of the rotation to host the semifinals.

“Because of college football’s widespread popularity and the incredible passion of its fans, few events are more meaningful than these games,” ESPN President John Skipper said. “We are ecstatic at the opportunity to continue to crown a college football champion on ESPN’s outlets for years to come, the perfect finale to our year-round commitment to the sport.”

Once definitive documentation and all necessary approvals are completed, ESPN will have the rights to feature all games on ESPN, ESPN Radio, ESPN Mobile TV and via WatchESPN on computers, smartphones, tablets and Xbox LIVE. Additionally, ESPN would have the rights to distribute the matchups on ESPN 3D, ESPN Deportes and around the world via ESPN International.

“We are delighted to continue our relationship with ESPN for 12 more years,” says Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the BCS. “ESPN’s outlets provide numerous opportunities to bring this iconic event to the fans. Folks are going to love this playoff and the attention ESPN will give to it.”

Specifically, the arrangement would provide ESPN with rights to:

  • Championship Games: Coverage of each year’s championship game pitting the semifinal winners against each other on the Monday at least seven days after the semifinals at sites to be determined by the commissioners.
  • Semifinals: Coverage of two semifinals each year matching four seeded teams identified by a selection committee to be named by the commissioners. The semifinals will be rotated among six bowl games consisting of three “contract bowls” and three “host bowls” to be determined by the commissioners.
  • Additional bowls in the playoff format: Coverage of all remaining games from the sites of the three “host bowls” during the years those bowls are not semifinal sites. Note: ESPN had previously secured the rights to the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowl games for the same 12-year period (through January 2026).
  • Related programming: Exclusive rights to branded content throughout each season, including the official team-selection announcement.

ESPN is in the midst of a four-year agreement for the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). The network televises all five games from the current format, including the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls, as well as the BCS National Championship Game. The two BCS National Championship Games on ESPN (2011, 2012) have generated the two largest audiences for any program in the history of cable television.