* Source says ESPN paying more than $7 billion for games
* New playoff deal will start in 2014, secured for 12 years
* College football approved new playoff format in the summer
* Adds to ESPN’s portfolio of high-profile live sports
By Liana B. Baker
Nov 21 (Reuters) - Disney’s ESPN said on Wednesday it locked up the TV rights for U.S. college football playoff games for 12 years in a new deal that a source said was worth more than $7 billion.
ESPN did not disclose financial terms of the agreement with the group that will administer the new college football playoff system, which starts in 2014. The deal will run from 2014 until January 2026, the network said in a statement.
A source with knowledge of the matter said ESPN would pay $470 million a year, or $5.64 billion over 12 years to carry the games that are part of the new playoff format that was approved in June by a committee of university presidents.
Combined with a previous agreement for three bowl games, the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, ESPN will pay between $600 million and $615 million per year, or between $7.2 billion and $7.38 billion, for the postseason games.
ESPN will have the rights to air a championship game and a pair of semifinal games featuring teams that are selected for the four-game playoff. It will also air other bowl games that will rotate each year.
The games will be featured on ESPN’s platforms, including television, radio and on the Internet and mobile devices.
The highly profitable ESPN TV network is a major revenue generator for Disney. It is seen in 98 million homes and has secured major multi-year sports TV deals with the NFL, Major League Baseball, Wimbledon and college football, among others.
In August, ESPN agreed to pay Major League Baseball $5.6 billion over eight years for a package of baseball games.
Sporting events are among the shrinking number of broadcasts that viewers watch live without skipping commercials, and therefore reap some of the highest rates from advertisers. This has drawn more bidders to sports programming, driving prices higher and providing a boon to sports teams.
Disney shares closed up 24 cents, or 0.5 percent higher, on Wednesday at $48.68.