The title game will be played on a Monday, at least a week after the semifinals.
The deal is worth about $470 million a year, a person with knowledge of the terms said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the fee had not been announced.
ESPN’s current four-year contract to air the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls along with the BCS title game is worth about $125 million per year.
ESPN will own the rights to all six bowls involved in the four-team playoff system. Conference commissioners had decided that the two semifinals would rotate among those half-dozen sites; the four not involved each year will host major bowl games similar to the current BCS contests. The title game will be bid out each season through a separate process, as the Super Bowl is for the NFL.
There will be three “contract bowls” that offer automatic bids to particular conferences in years they don’t host one of the semifinals: the Rose, Sugar and Orange. The network already had separate deals for the same 12-year period through the 2025 season for those games, which are affiliated with the Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC and SEC.
The new agreement also gives ESPN the rights to the three “host bowls,” which will feature at-large teams along with the top squad from the group of five conferences without ties to a contract bowl. The sites for the host bowls are still to be determined, though the most likely landing spots are the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
Wednesday’s agreement in principle includes rights for TV, radio, mobile, online and international.
“Because of college football’s widespread popularity and the incredible passion of its fans, few events are more meaningful than these games,” ESPN President John Skipper said.
College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
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