Michigan Jim Harbaugh National Championship Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While ESPN retained the right to sublicense College Football Playoff games as part of its new multi-year deal with the Playoff, the company didn’t plan on doing that until TNT Sports blew the doors off the company with an offer.

Per the Sports Business Journal, Jimmy Pitaro said that ESPN “did not have any intention” to sublicense games to another network. However, TNT Sports parent Warner Bros. Discovery came in with a “very attractive” offer to claim two games in each of the next two years and a pair of quarterfinals beginning in 2026.

Pitaro claimed the decision gave ESPN some financial flexibility going forward.

“We recognize that we’re all operating in a challenging environment with cord-cutting and the competition for sports rights, so we decided to maintain some financial flexibility here,” said Pitaro.

TNT Sports is reportedly paying nine figures annually for the games, helping ESPN recoup some of the $1.3 billion annually being paid out for the full Playoff package.

As previously reported, the games airing on TNT Sports will still be produced and staffed by ESPN talent, while ESPN will also retain all the ad revenue from the games.

Additionally, Pitaro called the sublicensing agreement and games airing on TNT Sports networks “a net positive” for college football.

“We took a step back and asked ourselves, ‘Was this better or worse for college football?’ And we ultimately decided that [WBD] putting their networks behind these games would be a net positive,” Pitaro said.

This year’s College Football Playoff begins with one first-round game on Friday, December 20, airing on ABC and ESPN. The two TNT games will take place on Saturday, December 21 at noon ET and 4 p.m. ET, going head-to-head with an NFL doubleheader airing on NBC and Fox.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

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