The College Football Playoff logo is shown on the field...

The College Football Playoff logo is shown on the field at AT&T Stadium before the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game between Notre Dame and Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Jan. 1, 2021. The nine Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame reached an agreement Friday, March 15, 2024, on a six-year deal to continue the College Football Playoff through the 2031 season, a significant step that establishes a revenue-sharing plan and allows the CFP to finalize a media rights agreement. Credit: AP/Roger Steinman

The College Football Playoff and ESPN announced a $7.8 billion deal Tuesday that will give the network exclusive rights to the expanded postseason through the 2031 season, with the national championship game moving to ABC starting in 2026.

Financial terms were not announced, but as previously reported the new six-year agreement will pay the CFP and participating conferences $1.3 billion annually.

An agreement in principle between the CFP and ESPN was reached weeks ago, but first the college conferences that participate in the playoff had to sign a deal to continue their partnership for another six years. That agreement and a new revenue-sharing plan was finalized last week.

The new agreements with ESPN, modify terms of the remaining two years of the current contract to take into account expansion from four to 12 teams, starting with the upcoming season.

“It’s a significant day for the CFP and for the future of college football," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said. “The depth of coverage that ESPN gives to the sport throughout the season is second to none.”

The conferences agreed to at least a 12-team playoff starting in 2026, but more expansion could be on the way. Hancock said last week that format discussions among the management committee, comprised of Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, have been tabled for now.

ESPN has been the home of the CFP's primary broadcast for the championship game through the first 10 years of the playoff, and will remain so for the final two years of the original 12-year deal. In 2026, the title game moves to ESPN's parent network, ABC.

Nick Dawson, ESPN's senior vice president for programming, said moving the title game to the over-the-air network was a collaborative decision between the CFP and ESPN.

“I think it was something we had expected was coming in a new deal. That having a broadcast network presence would be an important piece as the size and scale of the playoff grew,” Dawson said.

ESPN recently agreed to a new $920 million, eight-year deal with the NCAA for the rights to the women's Division I basketball tournament and 39 other championship events.

The current CFP contracts, including with ESPN, expire after the 2025 football season. The previous deal with ESPN, which included the rights to only three playoff games per season (two semifinals and a championship game) and four marquee bowl games, paid out $470 million annually.

During the long and at times contentious expansion negotiations between the conference commissioners, there was generally consensus among the group that the expanded CFP would ideally have multiple media partners after the original 12-year deal with ESPN expired.

Instead, the CFP found a market with few aggressive buyers and ESPN highly motivated to own it all.

The deal does allow for ESPN to sublicense a select number of games to other networks.

Media consultant and former Fox Sports executive Patrick Crakes said he was not surprised ESPN ended up as the lone rights holder, especially with major digital media companies such as Apple and Amazon still cautious about entering the market.

“The reason why the expectations aren't getting met is because the economics and ability to monetize these large, tier one properties, it's just becoming impossible to do it, unless you're already heavily invested in it,” he said.

Crakes said he always believed the CFP rights were ESPN's to lose.

“In the case of Fox, Fox would like to have this? I suppose, but at the end of the day they've got plenty going on in December and January,” he said.


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