Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; A detail view of an ESPN camera before the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium. Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After months of speculation, ESPN made it official on Tuesday: the College Football Playoff isn’t going anywhere.

ESPN announced the long-rumored six-year extension with the Playoff Tuesday, keeping the whole Playoff on ESPN networks through the 2031 season. The deal consists of the new first-round games for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, along with the entire Playoff from 2026-2031.

While the company didn’t announce the value of the deal, January reports indicated that ESPN would be paying $1.3 billion annually.

“ESPN has worked very closely with the College Football Playoff over the past decade to build one of the most prominent events in American sports. We look forward to enhancing our valued relationship over the next two years, and then continuing it for six more as we embark on this new, expanded playoff era,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “This agreement further solidifies ESPN as the home of college football, as well as the destination for the vast majority of major college championships for the next eight years.”

“We are delighted to continue our long-standing relationship with ESPN,” said CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock. “It’s a significant day for the CFP and for the future of college football. The depth of coverage that ESPN gives to the sport throughout the season is second to none. There is no better platform to showcase this iconic championship as we move into the new 12-team format because ESPN’s people love college football every bit as much as we all do.”

There are several new elements to the deal as well. Starting in 2026, the National Championship will air on ABC with MegaCast broadcasts on ESPN networks. ESPN also can sublicense a select number of games to other companies, beginning in 2024. As for streaming, the new deal “includes expansive rights to simulcast or MegaCast CFP games across all Walt Disney Company platforms, including TWDC Direct-to-Consumer offerings.” That would presumably cover ESPN+, the upcoming joint venture between ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery, and next year’s ESPN direct-to-consumer product.

The Playoff will expand to 12 teams, up from four, for the 2024 edition. A further expansion to 14 teams is heavily rumored, but an announcement has not been made.

Ultimately, while ESPN is paying a whole lot of money for the Playoff, its inventory of games is exploding and it will also be expanding the reach it has for those games. The possibility of sublicensing games means that other potentially interested parties might not be left out in the cold, also allowing ESPN to recoup at least a small portion of the ten figures annually it reportedly will be paying.


About Joe Lucia

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