TNT Sports adds College Football Playoff games in 5-year sub-licensing deal with ESPN

TNT Sports is adding College Football Playoff games starting this season as part of a five-year sublicensing deal with ESPN, according to executives briefed on the discussions.

The deal will see TNT Sports and HBO Max from Warner Bros. Discovery will present two first-round matches during the first two seasons of the contract. Over the next three years, it would broadcast and broadcast two first-round matches and two quarter-final matches. Teams could add more games.

Although TNT’s future partnership with the NBA is uncertain, the decision on CFP games has nothing to do with the current fragile negotiations, according to executives briefed on the discussions. The CFP deal would have happened regardless of the status of negotiations with the NBA.

ESPN, home of the national championship, retains the remainder of the rights to the newly expanded 12-team CFP through its six-year, $7.8 billion deal.

The full financial terms of the deal between TNT and ESPN are not yet known, but in its negotiations with the CFP, Disney-owned ESPN had set an average value of $25 million for each first-round game.

The TNT games will be produced by ESPN and use ESPN broadcasters, but will be branded TNT Sports, according to a source with direct knowledge of their plans. TNT could produce ancillary programming around the games, which could include a new show like “Inside the College Football Playoff.” ESPN will get to pick the first two games of the first round before TNT makes its selection.

ESPN, WBD Sports and Fox are teaming up for a standalone streaming product, called Venu, that will be available to consumers this fall and, according to executives briefed on the plans, will be priced between $45 and $50 per month.

Working with Warner Bros. Discovery, ESPN is able to keep the entire playoffs under Venu’s umbrella.

As for the NBA, it has master agreements with ESPN for $2.6 billion per year, Amazon Prime Video for $1.8 billion per season and is close to reaching a deal with NBC Sports. TNT Sports, home of the beloved “Inside The NBA,” remains in talks with the league to continue its nearly four-decade relationship. No final resolution has been reached.

As the NBA conducts in-depth and detailed discussions with NBC, the question remains of what corresponding rights TNT might attempt to go after Amazon’s or NBC’s contracts with. This could lead to a legal battle. The NBA prefers to have three partners in its next deal instead of four.

Regardless of how negotiations with the NBA end, TNT Sports President Luis Silberwasser continues to expand his rights. In addition to existing agreements with the NBA, MLB, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the NHL, Silbwasser has agreements with American men’s and women’s football, NASCAR and, now, the CFP.

Like the NCAA Tournament, for which TNT partners with CBS, TNT does not carry regular-season college football games.

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(Photo: Michael Wade/Getty Images)

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