ESPN agrees to pay $80 million a year to broadcast Rose Bowl

The “Granddaddy of Them All” has hit the mother lode.

ESPN has agreed to pay an average of $80 million a year to broadcast the Rose Bowl game from 2015 through 2026, Sports Business Journal first reported. That’s an increase of 167% from the current deal, which pays $30 million annually.

“The Rose Bowl Game is one of sport’s most meaningful and celebrated events,” John Skipper, ESPN president, said in a written statement. “Extending our relationship long term with such a prestigious brand will play a significant role in the way fans continue to define ESPN — as the leading destination for college football all year long.”

The Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences will keep all the media revenue from the game, except in years when the Rose Bowl is played as a national championship semifinal game. In those years, the revenue will be distributed to all Football Bowl Subdivision conferences.

The 90-year-old Rose Bowl stadium is undergoing a renovation expected to cost between $160 million and $176 million. Although the new TV revenue is not connected to that expense, Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn said, “What works for the Rose Bowl game could only enhance the stature of the Rose Bowl stadium and our future.”

Media expert A.J. Maestas said that although the $80-million-per-year average is not extraordinary, he was somewhat surprised a deal would be forged so quickly considering the uncertainties surrounding the playoff system.

“To me it indicates that ESPN felt this was a no-brainer of a deal, even with the risk of changes,” said Maestas, president of Navigate Marketing, a Chicago-based firm specializing in sports and entertainment marketing. He said his company works with ESPN, though not on this deal.

“I would guess that the Rose Bowl may have left money on the table, given that someone would take a deal in such murky waters,” he said. “But even if the Rose Bowl did leave money on the table, they’ve guaranteed themselves to be with [ESPN], clearly the domestic leader in college sports and sports overall.”

According to Sports Business Journal, as the current Bowl Championship Series partner, ESPN has the inside track at the championship game and semifinals this fall with an exclusive 30-day negotiating window. If no agreement is reached during that period, the package will be shopped to other networks.