ESPN, College Football Playoff agree not to air daily fantasy ads

NEW YORK — ESPN and College Football Playoff officials have agreed that there will be no advertising for daily fantasy games during the telecasts of the national semifinals or the national championship game this season, the latest move by college athletics to distance itself from an increasingly controversial business that critics say constitutes gambling.

In an e-mail Wednesday, Bill Hancock, the playoff's executive director, confirmed the decision, which was made last month. An ESPN spokeswoman also confirmed it.

The NCAA had already informed its broadcast partners that it would not permit daily fantasy ads during its championship broadcasts, including the men's and women's basketball tournaments and baseball's College World Series.


However, the NCAA does not administer the football playoff, which consists of two semifinal games — this year, the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, on Dec. 31 — and a national championship game, to be held Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz.

Instead, the playoff is managed by the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame, which is independent in football. While many conferences have expressed skepticism about daily fantasy sports, they have taken different positions on whether advertisements should be broadcast during conference games or on conference-owned cable networks.

Several states are examining whether the games, in which players assemble a lineup of real players and then win or lose money based on how those players perform, violate the law.

In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey has recommended sweeping consumer-protection rules but has not moved to shut the companies down, saying state gambling laws don't explicitly ban fantasy sports.

Several conference commissioners have publicly expressed concern over the influence of the games on college-age consumers. The NCAA bars its athletes from sports wagering, including via daily fantasy sports, which it considers gambling.

In August, the NCAA and the Football Bowl Subdivision conferences asked DraftKings and FanDuel, the two most prominent daily fantasy websites, to refrain from offering games that involve college football. In October, in a letter obtained by the Times, the NCAA broke off planned meetings with the sites, with an executive vice president writing, "We believe that your product should not be offered in the college space for a variety of reasons, and we do not believe a further meeting with your organizations will change that view."


Last season's two national football semifinals and championship game were the three most-viewed broadcasts in the history of cable television, with the title game on ESPN, between Oregon and Ohio State, reaching an audience of 33.4 million.

ESPN is in the second year of a 12-year, $7.3 billion contract to broadcast the playoff, which in addition to the semifinals and final is affiliated with four other high-profile bowl games. At least two more of those games, the Fiesta Bowl and the Peach Bowl, will also not feature daily fantasy ads.