ESPN Subleases a Sports Loft to Warner Bros

Disney throws WBD a much-needed content bone
Warner Bros. Discovery and ESPN strike 5-year deal for College Football Playoff games
Warner Bros. Discovery will carry two College Football Playoff games on TNT and Max’s sports tier starting in December.

This is a bit strange:

In a move to strengthen its sports offerings, Warner Bros. Discovery has signed a five-year sublicensing deal with Disney’s ESPN to broadcast first-round and quarterfinal College Football Playoff games.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNT will carry two first round games this year and next year and will add two additional quarterfinals games starting in 2026. Disney also has an option to sublicense a semifinals game to Warner Bros. Discovery starting with the third year of the deal if it chooses, according to people familiar with the matter.

Disney will keep exclusivity on the championship game throughout the terms of the contract, which runs through 2031, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details are private. Disney is paying about $1.3 billion per year for rights to the entire College Football Playoffs.

This may be as simple as Disney realizing that with the new College Football playoff format, they perhaps don't need to broadcast all of the games and can instead spread the wealth, as it were, while also bringing in some extra cash. It also allows them to throw WBD a bone, which is in need of one since they're clearly about to lose their NBA rights. But why throw them a bone?

ESPN sublicensing to Warner Bros. Discovery also keeps all of the CFP games on Venu Sports, the new sports streaming service that’s being developed by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery and is expected to launch in the fall.

While WBD has other sports rights, by far their biggest contribution to Venu – still absolutely no idea how to pronounce that one – was going to be the NBA, games which their TNT brand has had for almost 40 years and which power the Charles Barkley-led Inside the NBA show. While they'd still have those games through the launch of Venu, that loss will be a big blow and calls into question the partnership here – and perhaps even more so when the other sports streaming service from Disney launches in a couple years and needs more content.

Also a bit odd, it will almost make TNT seem like another subsidiary of Disney – but with Disney getting paid for that privilege:

ESPN will produce the games and primarily use ESPN talent for the broadcasts, which will be TNT branded, said the people familiar. As part of the sublicensing agreement, Warner Bros. Discovery is paying ESPN an average of “hundreds of millions” per year for the games over the course of five years, though less in years one and two when it only has two games per year, said the people.

Warner Bros. Discovery has the exclusive rights to sublicense the games for the length of the deal.

Yeah, so this will definitely bolster an NBA-less TNT – without much work needed by WBD, it seems. And yes, it will save them quite a bit of money – something very important to WBD right now – versus what they would have had to spend to keep the NBA. Maybe we'll even get a "CFP on TNT" motto? Not quite the same... Of course, college football now regularly dwarfs all other sports aside from the NFL (another sport WBD doesn't have) when it comes to viewership:

College football is some of the most popular programming on television. Michigan’s semifinals victory over Alabama last year drew an average audience of 27.2 million viewers — the most watched non-NFL sporting event since 2018.

I just wanted to share that stat to say #GoBlue.