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ESPN Inks Multibillion Six-Year Extension for Expanded College Football Playoff

In the biggest sports rights deal of 2024 so far, ESPN has snagged a six-year extension for the College Football Playoff, a critical deal (valued at a reported $7.8 billion) that will keep ESPN as the home of the playoffs through 2031-2032.

The CFP will expand this year from four teams to 12 teams, with another expansion to 16 teams possible in 2026. Also beginning in 2026, the national championship game will be broadcast on ABC, in addition to ESPN’s traditional “MegaCast.”

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Notably, the deal also “includes expansive rights to simulcast or MegaCast CFP games across all Walt Disney Company platforms, including TWDC Direct-to-Consumer offerings,” per ESPN. That would presumably include ESPN’s DTC offering, as well as possibly Hulu and Disney+, should the company choose to do so.

ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro announced the deal at an Axios conference Tuesday.

“From my perspective, a good deal is when both sides are happy. We feel really good about the deal. And we believe that the college football playoff committee feels really good, the commissioners, everyone who was involved feels really good about it,” Pitaro told Sara Fishcer at the event. “It was a long process. They had to get a lot of their issues resolved among the conferences etc. And they did, and as soon as they did we were ready, because we’ve been working on our deal for so long we had things teed up. And so as soon as they came back to us and said we are now good, we have alignment among the conferences, among the constituents, it didn’t take us long to get our deal done and signed.”

Pitaro also addressed a number other issues at the event, including the ongoing talks with the NBA: “It is, from our perspective, an incredibly valuable asset not just to ESPN, but to the entire Walt Disney Company,” Pitaro said, noting the young audience the NBA brings in.

He also discussed the streaming sports joint-venture with Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, acknowledging that the $40-$50 per month price point being bandied about “feels right,” although they have not settled on a price point yet.

“What we hear about every single day from our sports fans, is some frustration in terms of fragmentation, discoverability,” Pitaro said. “We all know if you’re a sports fan, oftentimes you need several apps. You need several usernames and passwords. You have several charges that show up on your credit card. And so we took a step back and said is there an opportunity to work together with Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery to create an experience where it’s somewhat centralized, and you can fire up your app and have a good chunk of sports content more than than just ESPN has to offer?”

And Pitaro addressed the controversy surrounding Pat McAfee, the ESPN host who has occasionally found himself at the center of his own news cycle over comments made on his freewheeling daily show.

“We are in a battle for people’s time. It’s more competitive than it has ever been. And so we have to try new things, we have to experiment and sometimes that might make some people uncomfortable,” Pitaro said. “And I get that ,and Pat and I talked about this, we went into that relationship knowing that and understanding that, but from from my perspective… the Pat McAfee Show is a needle mover with with younger people because of the authenticity.”

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