TNT will begin airing College Football Playoff games through sublicense with ESPN

TNT Sports will begin airing College Football Playoff games this upcoming season through a sublicense with ESPN.

The five-year agreement announced Wednesday gives TNT two first-round games the first two years. Beginning in 2026, it expands to two first-round and two quarterfinals.

ESPN's $7.8 billion deal with the CFP, which was announced in March, allowed it to sublicense games to other networks. Financial terms of the sublicense were not announced.

“Our strategy has always been to try and round out our portfolio and continue to add the right set of rights whenever there is a possibility,” TNT Sports Chairman and CEO Luis Silberwasser said to The Associated Press. “When we look at the landscape and what can really bring in massive levels of audience that is in the popular culture and must watch, the College Football Playoff is at the top of the list.”

TNT Sports was one of the companies that bid on the CFP rights package before it was retained by ESPN.

Rosalyn Durant, ESPN’s executive vice president for programming and acquisitions, said TNT approached them after the renewal deal was announced and things progressed from there.

As to which quarterfinal games TNT might carry when the deal expands in two years, Durant said that remains to be determined.

Even though TNT does not air regular-season college football and basketball games, it will carry the two biggest tournaments. TNT has been a partner with CBS in airing the NCAA Tournament since 2011 and has a deal through 2032.

This will be the first season of the 12-team playoff. ESPN has carried the College Football Playoff since it started in the 2014 season. It replaced the Bowl Championship Series.

The top four conference champions will receive first-round byes. Four first-round games will take place Dec. 20-21 followed by the quarterfinals (Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl) Dec. 31-Jan. 1. The semifinals are the Orange Bowl on Jan. 9 and Cotton Bowl on Jan. 10 before the championship game takes place on Jan. 20 in Atlanta.

Kickoff times for the CFP are expected to be announced on June 6, when ESPN releases its bowl schedule.

It is also another instance of ESPN and TNT teaming up together. The two work close together since they have rights to the NBA and NHL.

CFP games on TNT will also be streamed on Max, but it also means the entire playoff will be on Venu Sports — the streaming platform planned by ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery that was announced in February.

Besides adding the NHL three years ago and NASCAR next year, TNT's future carrying the NBA remains up in the air as discussions continue with the league on a new rights agreement.

Silberwasser said though that the CFP was something they were looking independent of how NBA discussions are going.

“We continue to be optimistic about it and are working with them on different scenarios,” Silberwasser said about the NBA talks. “We continue to have productive conversations with them, and we hope to make a deal that is good for both.”

ESPN's rights to the College Football Playoff run through the 2031 season. The title game moves to ABC in 2026.

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