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ESPN had no intention of sublicensing CFP games until WBD made a “very attractive” offer. Also: Paramount’s merger with Skydance resumes after talks stalled last month; another cable provider drops Bally Sports RSNs; NBC’s Olympics programming comes into focus.

ESPN had no intention of sublicensing CFP games until WBD asked

Warner Bros Discovery reportedly made ESPN an offer “it couldn’t refuse” for the College Football Playoff games it had sublicensed from the network. Sports Business Journal on Tuesday. ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro told SBJ that the network has “no intention” of sublicensing CFP games, but believes the offer is too good to pass up given the “very attractive” price. ESPN has reportedly assigned an average value of $25 million to the first-round games, although WBD will pay ESPN “an average of ‘hundreds of millions’ per year,” according to a CNBC report in May.

Given the timing, an attractive deal from WBD isn’t too surprising. The threat of losing its NBA package, which the broadcaster has held for over three decades, has prompted the company to snap up any sports deal it can get.

As previously reported, ESPN will produce the sublicensed games for TNT and starting in 2026, the network will also broadcast two quarterfinal games. ESPN will keep all advertising revenue from the sublicensed games. Pitaro also noted on Richard DeitschA podcast last week said ESPN reserves the option to sublicense a semifinal game to TNT later. (SBJ, 7.2) (CNBC, 5.22)

The merger of Paramount and Skydance is back on the agenda

The merger agreement between National Amusement, the majority shareholder of Paramount, and David EllisonThe Skydance film studio is now back in operation, according to reports in the New York Times And Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. The reports come weeks after the deal appeared to fall through and Paramount executives outlined a path forward as a standalone company.

The deal will be largely similar to the one reported last month, with minor changes in dollar amounts. Skydance will acquire half of Paramount’s controlling interest for approximately $4.5 billion. Paramount’s special committee will now review and vote on the new deal.

Paramount owns many premium live sports rights, including the NFL, college football and March Madness under the CBS Sports banner. In addition, Paramount owns and operates major cable channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon and BET. (WSJ, 7.2) (NYT, 7.2)

Bally Sports discontinues Optimum

The Bally Sports RSNs have gone dark on another cable system, this time on Altice USA’s Optimum. Sport on Monday. Optimum is the ninth-largest provider of multichannel video services in the country, with more than 2 million subscribers. The cable operator has carried 12 of the Bally Sports RSNs in 21 states.

The blackout comes amid wider problems with Bally’s parent company Diamond Sports Group, which continues to drag itself through bankruptcy proceedings. Earlier this year, Diamond was able to secure broadcast deals with its two largest distributors – Charter and DirecTV – before failing to secure a similar deal with Comcast, its third-largest distributor. Judge Christopher Lopezwho is overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings has not yet commented on whether an agreement with Comcast (and now Optimum) would be necessary for Diamond to emerge from bankruptcy. (Sportico, 7.1)

NBC’s Olympic schedule comes into focus

NBC has announced the times and networks for several key Olympic events. As previously announced, NBC will broadcast many of the most popular events, such as track and field, swimming and basketball, live in the daytime slot – a departure from what the network has done in years past, when it aired such events in a delayed primetime slot.

The U.S. men’s basketball team’s opening game against Serbia will be broadcast live on July 28 at 11:15 a.m. ET. The women’s team will face Japan the next day at 3 p.m. ET on the USA Network.

Swimming will be highlighted live when the four-time Olympian Katie Ledecky will seek another gold medal in the 1500-meter freestyle on July 31 at 3:00 p.m. ET.

As for athletics, NBC Sha’Carri Richardson And Noah Lyles as both look to win their respective 100-meter races. The women’s final will air live on August 3 at 3:00 p.m. ET, while the men’s final will air the following day at 3:50 p.m. ET. (NBC, 7.1)