College Football Playoff Jan 7, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; The College Football Playoff logo on a building in downtown. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the four-team College Football Playoff ending on Monday night, ESPN is reportedly negotiating to retain the Playoff’s exclusive rights for the next eight seasons.

ESPN reports the network is negotiating with the Playoff for the two expanded editions of the Playoff in 2024 and 2025 (ESPN already has the rights for the quarterfinals through the national championship in those two seasons) along with the next six seasons from 2026-2031. The cost to ESPN would reportedly be $1.3 billion annually. The network is paying around $600 million per year in the current deal.

ESPN declined to comment on the ESPN report.

The Playoff re-upping with ESPN for the full package would be somewhat surprising, given the rumored host of suitors for games in the Playoff and the Playoff committee’s desire to spread its games across multiple media partners, which is often seen in other sports (including the NFL).

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said that a deal wasn’t done yet, but “we’re getting close.” Hancock also noted that he was “not going to be able to tell you much about” the deal since negotiations were ongoing.

Interestingly, ESPN notes that sublicensing some Playoff games was discussed, and the matter has been settled (to which end is unknown, however).

According to sources, a sub-license agreement was a sticking point that has been settled, which would give ESPN the ability to sell the rights to some of the games — something Fox Sports would be interested in, sources indicated.

Hancock said that if ESPN were to sub-license any games, the presidents would have to approve it.

Aside from ESPN, media companies linked to the playoffs’ rights include Fox Sports (rumored to be making a “massive bid” for playoff rights last week), NBC, Warner Bros. Discovery, and unnamed streaming companies. Given how tightly linked to the Playoff ESPN has been since the first edition, it seemed likely the company would retain at least some rights to the package. If this reported deal gets done, ESPN will retain its broadcasting dominance over the Playoff and, via its ownership of various bowl games through ESPN Events, college football’s entire bowl season.


About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.