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ESPN puts early value on playoff: Close to $500 million per year

ESPN has offered close to $500 million per year for the college football playoff, CBSSports.com has learned.

While negotiations remain ongoing, multiple sources confirmed the amount offered for a four-team playoff beginning after the 2014 season. Discussions are ongoing about the structure of the playoff.

While the figure is not considered a formal opening bid, it does put a per-year value on a playoff. Using $500 million as a high -- sources say the ESPN bid isn't quite that high -- a 12-year deal would be worth between $5 billion and $6 billion through 2026.

If nothing else, we have an indication of the value of a playoff. The commissioners went into their annual BCS meeting in April thinking the valuation was at $350 million per year. After listening to consultants, the value had shot through the roof. Now we have tangible proof of the windfall awaiting college football.

The price point, though, is less of an issue at this point than the structure. CBSSports.com reported this week that the Big 12 and Pac-12 each want access to another bowl slot. Both conferences currently have only one bowl in the playoff structure. The SEC and Big Ten each have two.

As a way to get that access, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott are advocating establishing another contract bowl with their conferences participating against a team from the so-called Group of Five (MAC, Sun Belt, Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA).

However, multiple sources have said the market won't support the addition of a seventh playoff bowl. Scott and Bowlsby are reportedly also in support of their game being played within the current six-bowl structure. Big East commissioner Mike Aresco says he still believes a seventh bowl is possible.

A contract bowl is a term invented this year when conferences began to take ownership of bowls in the new playoff era. The Rose (Big Ten-Pac-12), Orange (ACC-Notre Dame/Big Ten/SEC) and Sugar (SEC-Big 12) are considered contract bowls. Three other access or, open, bowls have yet to be determined.

ESPN has an exclusive 30-day negotiating window to land the playoff before it would go to market. Fox is also known to be interested. It is not clear from this early point in the negotiations if that 30-day window has even begun.

 
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