TNT is getting into the college football business as its NBA rights hang in the balance.  (Visionhaus/Getty Images)

TNT is getting into the college football business as its NBA rights hang in the balance. (Visionhaus/Getty Images)

TNT has reached a deal with ESPN to broadcast early-round College Football Playoff games starting with the 2024 season as its NBA rights hang in the balance.

TNT Sports announced the news on Wednesday of a five-year agreement with ESPN through the 2028 season. Per the agreement, TNT will sublicense ESPN’s rights to broadcast two first-round playoff games for each of the next five seasons. TNT will then acquire rights to broadcast two quarterfinal games each year for the remainder of the deal starting with the 2026 season.

The news arrives ahead of the newly adopted 12-team CFP format that will be implemented for the first time after the 2024 regular season. As part of the new format, ESPN secured an extension as the exclusive rights-holder for CFP broadcasts through the 2031 season with a rights fee averaging $1.3 billion per season. It’s now sharing those rights with TNT.

In the new format, the four highest-seeded teams will receive first-round byes. Teams seeded 5-12 will compete in opening-round games. The broadcasts of those four games will be split between ESPN and TNT. Starting in 2026, the ensuing four quarterfinal games will also be split between the two networks. ESPN will then exclusively carry the semifinal and national championship games. Terms of the agreement weren’t announced.

The new deal arrives as TNT’s NBA rights are at risk, a development that could significantly impact the network’s on-air product. TNT Sports is anchored by its NBA coverage, with much of its broadcast talent focused on covering the league.

Per a Sports Business Journal report on Wednesday, the NBA is formalizing media rights contracts with Disney/ESPN, NBC and Amazon, a development that puts TNT’s NBA rights at risk beyond the end of its contract with the league through the 2024-25 season.

Per the report, TNT’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery will have the option to match NBC’s bid in an effort retain its NBA rights, an option that could reportedly lead to legal action involving embattled CEO David Zaslav.

Losing NBA rights would presumably mean the end of beloved studio show “Inside the NBA” and open questions about the professional fate of its hosts Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal in addition to in-game broadcasters such as Kevin Harlan and Brian Anderson.


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