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ESPN Locks Up New-Look College Football Playoff With $7.8B Extension

  • The network now controls media rights to college football’s biggest games through 2032.
  • The move comes as the playoff expands to 12 teams in 2024.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN will continue to control exclusive media rights to the College Football Playoff through the 2031–32 season. Chairman Jimmy Pitaro announced a six-year, $7.8 billion extension with the NCAA’s football playoff tournament during an Axios conference Tuesday.

Fox Sports, the second-biggest TV player in college sports, was interested in breaking up ESPN’s stranglehold over the CFP. But in the end, Disney’s deep pockets, and sister broadcast network ABC’s broad reach, helped ESPN hang on to the CFP. (ESPN’s deal was slated to end after the 2026 title game.)

Terms of the deal as later announced Tuesday by ESPN:

  • As the CFP expands to a 12-team format this fall, ESPN gets exclusive rights to all four new first-round games as well as the New Year’s quarterfinals and semifinals and CFP national championship.
  • Beginning with the 2026–’27 season, ABC will broadcast the national championship, alongside the traditional MegaCast, offering multiple viewing options across ESPN platforms.
  • But the deal allows ESPN to “sub-license” a “select” number of games. That means other networks could buy the rights to televise some CFP games from ESPN—most likely the least-watched first-round games.

ESPN’s telecast of Michigan’s win over Washington in the CFP national championship averaged 25 million viewers, up 45% from the previous year.

ESPN will employ a similar dual network strategy for its first Super Bowls after the NFL’s 2026 and ’30 seasons, showing the Big Game on both ESPN and ABC.

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