Warner Bros. Discovery and ESPN enter into a deal for the College Football Playoff

ESPN college football broadcast camera seen prior to the All State Sugar Bowl playoff game between the Texas Longhorns and the Washington Huskies on Monday, January 1, 2024 at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

Nick Tre. Smith | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

In an effort to strengthen its sports offering, Warner Bros. Discovery has signed a five-year sublicense agreement Disneys ESPN will broadcast College Football Playoff first-round and quarterfinal games.

TNT from Warner Bros. Discovery will offer two first-round games this year and next, and add two additional quarter-final games starting in 2026. Disney also has an option to sublicense a semi-final game to Warner Bros. Discovery, starting with the third year of the competition. deal if it chooses to do so, according to people familiar with the matter.

Disney will maintain exclusivity on the championship game for the life of the contract, which runs through 2031, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details are private. Disney pays approximately $1.3 billion per year for rights to the entire College Football Playoff.

The new 12-team College Football Playoff bracket will debut in December, replacing a four-team tournament that began in 2014. In the new format, the top four teams will get byes, while the teams from number 5 to number 12 will play first-round matches. in the home stadium of the higher ranked team.

ESPN will produce the games and use primarily ESPN talent for the broadcasts, which will be under the TNT brand, people familiar said. As part of the sublicense agreement, Warner Bros. will pay Discovery ESPN averages “hundreds of millions” per year for the games over the course of five years, although less in years one and two, when it only has two games per year. the people said.

Warner Bros. Discovery has exclusive rights to sublicense the games for the duration of the deal.

“It is exciting to add TNT Sports, another highly respected broadcaster, to the College Football Playoff family,” Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said in a statement. “Sports fans across the country are intimately familiar with their work in a wide range of sporting events over the past twenty years, and we look forward to seeing what new and innovative ideas they bring to the promotion and delivery of these games.”

The first round of the CFP will take place on December 20 and 21 this year.

CFP in, NBA out?

Warner Bros. Discovery plans to add the games to its Max sports level. The company is diving into live sports as it is in the midst of a difficult negotiation with the National Basketball Association over a package of live games.

TNT has been a partner of the NBA for almost forty years, but runs the risk of losing its games Comcastowned by NBCUniversal and Amazon as Warner Bros. Discovery decides to give up its matching rights, or, possibly, if the league chooses to ignore these rights.

College football is one of the most popular shows on television. Michigan's semifinal win over Alabama last year drew an average audience of 27.2 million viewers – the most-watched non-NFL sporting event since 2018.

Even if Warner Bros. Discovery loses the NBA, it now has both CFP and the NBA until mid-2025, in addition to several weeks of games for the NCAA men's basketball March Madness tournament, men's and women's basketball. football, NASCAR, Major League Baseball and the national hockey league. That should help the company with its upcoming carriage renewal deals for TNT and its other cable networks.

ESPN sublicenses to Warner Bros. Discovery also ensures that all CFP games remain active Venu Sportsthe new sports streaming service being developed by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery and is expected to launch in the fall.

Disclosure: Comcast owns CNBC's parent company, NBCUniversal.

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