The state of the college football playoff’s TV rights

The so-called “Champions Bowl” may not have a venue or even a proper name, but it does have a TV deal. ESPN will reportedly pay the SEC and Big 12 Rose Bowl money to show the game over the duration of the new playoff format.

Make no bones about it: this puts ESPN in a dominating position to land the entire college football playoff, especially if it also lands the Orange Bowl. The BCS wants to take advantage of the increased and higher-value inventory to pit networks against one another and drive up the price, but ESPN will now have two of the five most prominent games in the new system, maybe two of the top three. Fox and CBS will need to do a lot to convince the BCS to split up the new postseason. I’m not sure they can even put enough pressure on ESPN to force them to put the new playoff (and, presumably, the Rose and Champions Bowls) on ABC, meaning we might be in for more national championship games on cable for another twelve years. At best, I would expect ESPN or ABC to alternate with Fox or CBS for the championship game, even if they don’t officially win the rest of the new postseason contract. Reportedly, CBS hadn’t even shown interest when the Rose Bowl deal was announced, meaning Fox must fight ESPN alone.

(I don’t see NBC being a factor, because they need to save their money for sports that can help build the NBC Sports Network, especially if they lose the baseball rights. They might be a dark horse for the Orange Bowl if Notre Dame agrees to an arrangement with it, similar to when they showed the Gator Bowl when Notre Dame had an arrangement with them, and I think they will because the selection committee could be selecting as few as two teams that aren’t in the playoff to go to other bowls, and the Rose Bowl reportedly would like that to be substantially more often the case than six, meaning Notre Dame needs to do something to protect their elevated stature in college football. I also think this removed whatever slim chance Turner, with their lack of college football and not being a broadcast network or ESPN, had to land any part of the new playoff.)

To put it simply, the new college football playoff is ESPN’s to lose. Fox and CBS have one heck of an uphill climb ahead of them.

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