TNT Secures College Football Playoff Games, NBA Deal Concerns Remain

With its crucial NBA sports TV programming deal in the balance, Warner Bros. Discovery has struck a multiyear "sub-licensing" agreement with ESPN to secure some early-round games in the new expanded College Football Playoff series.

WBD’s TNT will get two first-round games starting this season,  and an additional two quarterfinal games in 2026 and 2028. These games can also be added to WBD’s streaming Max platform.

Robert Fishman, media analyst at MoffettNathanson Research, estimates those early-round games to have an estimated advertising revenue of $30 million. 

Under the new CFP plan, the series will expand to 12 teams from four currently starting next year. 

Two months ago, ESPN struck  a six-year extension of its original CFP deal -- valued at $7.8 billion -- an agreement that will extend in duration to the 2031-2032 season. Reports suggest the two early-round games that TNT has secured have been valued -- in terms of rights fees paid by ESPN -- of  about $25 million per game. 



Total advertising revenue for the entire CFP package is projected to be $440 million, according to MoffettNathanson -- with the College Football Playoff championship game expected to bring in $60 million.

As a rough comparison to how these new games might perform, seven major college bowl football games last year averaged a Nielsen-measured TV viewership averaged 13.8 million -- with the Fiesta Bowl at the low end (4.6 million) and the Rose Bowl at the top (26.1 million). The CFP championship game itself averaged 24.3 million.

With regard to the renewal of the NBA contract, reports say deals are far along with ESPN/ABC nearly securing a renewal for so-called “A” package of games, along with Amazon carving out a new batch of games -- including an in-season tournament that started up in the 2023-2024 regular NBA season.

In addition, NBCUniversal has been a new entrant to the NBA negotiations, vying for the “B” package of games that has been on TNT.

Due to its long incumbency in airing NBA games, TNT has the right to match NBCU offer.

But cost will be a major consideration. It is expected to average $2.4 billion in rights fees per year -- more than double the existing $1.2 billion deal currently in operation, which was struck a decade ago.

ESPN's potential deal could be at a cost of $2.8 billion per year -- double the amount of its $1.4 billion-per-year from its previous deal.

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