As expected after Fox declined to match its offer yesterday, ESPN has signed a four year deal to televise Bowl Championship Series games.
The deal, which reports peg at about $125 million a year, will move the premiere college bowl games off of broadcast television for the first time. ESPN will televise the Orange, Fiesta and Sugar bowls from 2011-2014, and the BCS National Championship game through 2013. ESPN sister network ABC currently has the rights to the Rose Bowl, which will remain there at least through 2010. ESPN says it has not decided whether the game will be shifted to cable after that point.
ESPN president George Bodenheimer addressed the question of whether fans would be losing access to the games by moving them to cable in a conference call with reporters.
“I think there will be great access to all the games themselves as well as the coverage surrounding the games,” Bodenheimer said. “The relatively small differential separating broadcast and cable will continue to dissipate.”
Bodenheimer also said that the network would not be adding a surcharge to its distributors for the new content.
In addition to the television and radio rights, the deal also includes extensive digital rights, with ESPN operating the official BCS website, and the possibility of streaming games live on ESPN’s digital platform, ESPN360.com, or on mobile devices.
ESPN will also launch new BCS branded programming, and sister networks, including ESPNU and ESPN Classic will get BCS content.