ESPN Scores 6-Year, $7.8 Billion Media Rights Extension for College Football Playoff

ESPN has struck a six-year media rights extension to be the exclusive home of the College Football Playoff through the 2031-2032 season.

The deal, which is valued at $7.8 billion and will kick off during the 2026-2027 season, will give the sports network exclusive rights to all rounds of the expanded playoffs – first round, quarterfinal, semifinal and National Championship – as well as continued rights to all ancillary programming connected to the games, such as the CFP Selection Show, weekly Top 25 rankings shows and more.

Additionally, ESPN will broadcast the CFP National Championship on ABC along with offering its signature MegaCast presentation across ESPN platforms. The new agreement includes “expansive rights to simulcast or MegaCast CFP games across all Walt Disney Company platforms,” including its direct-to-consumer services.

Separately, ESPN will also amend its current rights package for its final two years (the 2025-2026 season), adding all four of the new first round games each year to ESPN’s existing New Year’s Six (now Quarterfinals and Semifinals) and the CFP National Championship rights in a new 12-team playoff that will launch this fall. Under both agreements, the CFP provides ESPN with the right to sublicense a select number of games.

The CFP has contributed to the most-watched days in ESPN’s nearly 45-year history, led by the first CFP semifinals in 2015 boosting ESPN to 11.6 million average viewers for New Year’s Day. The CFP semifinals in 2018, 2022 and 2024 anchored ESPN in rounding out the top four complete day audiences in network history.

College football on ESPN accounts for the Top 15 and more than 50 of the Top 100 most-watched cable programs on record (since 1987), with eight of the Top 10 directly from CFP semifinals or National Championship games.

In 2023-24, ESPN’s expansive coverage of the three-game CFP scored its most-watched matchups in six years and third best of the CFP era with 23.6 million viewers and 15 percent year-over-year audience growth across the trio of games. The CFP National Championship and New Year’s Six averaged 15.1 million viewers, the best audience in five years and fifth highest in the 10-year history of the CFP, up double digits year-over-year.

The agreement with the CFP marks ESPN’s second significant college sports media rights extension in 2024, following its eight-year deal with the NCAA, which includes exclusive rights to 40 championship events. ESPN now boasts the exclusive domestic rights to every major college championship outside of men’s basketball, and international rights to all major college championships.

“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,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “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,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock added. “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.”

The latest media rights agreements come ahead of the launch of a joint sports streaming venture this fall between Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery.

The offering, which will be led by former Apple and Hulu executive Pete Distad, will offer access to content from linear sports networks including ESPN, ESPN+, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, FOX, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, truTV and ABC. Content will include the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, College Sports, UFC, PGA TOUR Golf, Grand Slam Tennis, the FIFA World Cup, cycling and much more. Subscribers would also have the option to bundle the product with Disney+, Hulu and Max.

A name for the service, pricing details and additional staff will be disclosed at a later date, though an individual familiar with the matter previously told TheWrap that the price point would be cheaper than YouTube TV, which charges $72.99 per month for its basic plan. Analysts have estimated that the joint venture’s pricing could fall anywhere between $35 to $50 per month and Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch has said it would be in the “higher ranges of what people are talking about.” The offering is expected to reach 5 million subscribers within the first five years of its launch.

Additionally, Disney is launching a fully direct-to-consumer version of ESPN, which is targeting a launch in August 2025. The offering will include shopping, betting and other personalized and customizable features. Though pricing has not been announced, Disney CEO Bob Iger has said it will differ “substantially” in cost from the joint venture.

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