TNT Sports Reaches 5-Year Deal With ESPN To Exclusively Air Select College Football Playoff Games

ESPN and TNT Sports have reached a 5-year sublicensing deal that will see the Warner Bros. Discovery subsidiary carry select College Football Playoff games from ESPN.

Starting later this year and continuing in 2025, TNT will present two first-round playoff games and then add two quarterfinal games each year beginning in 2026 through the end of the agreement. ESPN will present all other College Football Playoff games on its networks including the annual CFP National Championship Game. ESPN will also continue to manage the sponsorship program for the presentation of the CFP.

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The playoff, which began a decade ago as a replacement for the longtime system of polls and disputed championships, has been a ratings magnet and moneymaker for universities and conferences. The stakeholders recently voted to expand the field from four to 12 teams, which promises to bring in even more revenue given recent ratings trends. Outside of the NFL, college football telecasts bring in the largest audiences of anything on TV.

For TNT Sports, the influx of college football adds another major sport to its roster at a delicate time for its most popular property, the NBA. The company has carried NBA games for nearly four decades but is reported to potentially be on the outside looking in as Disney-ESPN, Amazon and NBCUniversal look to finalize rights deals. In college basketball, Turner has long had a share in NCAA March Madness, airing the men’s tournament in a partnership with Paramount-CBS. The company’s sports add-on to flagship streaming service Max currently has no additional price for Max subscribers, but it is expected to launch as a paid tier in the coming months. The CFP games will surely help that initiative.

“We’re delighted to reach this agreement with ESPN, providing TNT Sports the opportunity to showcase these College Football Playoff games on our platforms for years to come,” said Luis Silberwasser, Chairman and CEO, TNT Sports.

With a surfeit of games coinciding with a period of discipline in terms of overall programming expenses, realizing revenue from a subset of games made sense for Disney and ESPN. The company is “pleased to sublicense to TNT Sports a select number of early round games of the College Football Playoff, an event we’ve helped to grow – alongside the CFP – into one of the preeminent championships,” said Rosalyn Durant, ESPN EVP, programming & acquisitions. “We’re confident in the reach and promotion that this new agreement will provide as we enter the new, expanded playoff era.”

Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the College Football Playoff, called TNT a “highly respected broadcaster” and said sports fans “are intimately familiar with their work across a wide variety of sports properties.”

In the expanded format, the four highest-ranking conference champions will be seeded 1-4 and receive byes in the first round, which this year will kick off December 20. The first round will consist of four games played at home campus venues, with teams seeded 5-8 hosting teams seeded 9-12. The national championship game is scheduled for January 20, 2025.

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