By Barry Janoff
November 15, 2012: ESPN, already the self-professed "worldwide leader in sports," has taken significant steps to ensure that title holds true in college football.
ESPN has signed a 12-year deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference to air the Orange Bowl across its network of platforms beginning in 2015. The deal comes on the heels of a new ESPN 12-year alliance to air the Sugar Bowl, signed earlier this week, and one with the Rose Bowl signed in June, with both also beginning in 2015.
The deals will be extensions of current alliances that ESPN has with two of the three Bowl games: the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl, the latter of which has aired on either ESPN or sibling ABC since 1989, with the current deal running through 2014. Fox current has rights to the Cotton Bowl, which expires after 2014.
ESPN currently has the TV rights to 33 of the 35 college football Bowl games scheduled for the current college football season (including the Citrus Bowl airing on ABC).
ESPN also will air the BSC National Championship Game, which will be played on Jan. 7, 2013, in Miami's Sun Life Stadium. Next season's BCS National Championship Game will be played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Jan. 6, 2014, also on ESPN.
Aside from the Cotton Bowl, the Sun Bowl on CBS is the only other Bowl game not currently airing on a Disney Co.-owned network.
The new deals deals coincide with the reformatting of the Bowl Championship Series, which beginning in 2014 will see a four-team playoff system to determine the national champion and six Bowl games that will serve on a rotating basis to host the national semi-finals. The Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl are already among the six Bowls that will be part of the system, with the other three to be unveiled in the near future.
Under the new format, the host stadium for the national title game will be up for bid on an annual basis.
The rights to all three Bowls through 2026 include TV, ESPN Radio, ESPN Mobile TV and on smartphones, tablets, online and on Xbox LIVE via WatchESPN, on ESPN 3D and worldwide via ESPN International.
“A game pitting the ACC champion against the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame ensures a great match up for sports fans,” John Skipper, ESPN president, said in a statement regarding the Orange Bowl deal, “The Orange Bowl has a great history and we are very proud to be part of extending that into the next decade.”
Earlier, regarding ESPN's Cotton Bowl deal, Skipper said, “Given the history of excellence by teams in the SEC and Big 12, we recognized the value in securing long-term rights to the Sugar Bowl. The match-up will provide college football fans with a memorable way to start the New Year on ESPN’s many platforms.”
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