Fox Sports has decided to pull its bid on the next round of television rights for the Bowl Championship Series college football games.
Fox's four-year deal with the BCS ends after the 2009 season (and the games in January 2010).
The Bowl Championship Series says it is close to a deal with ESPN.
"Currently, over 98 million homes receive ESPN," BCS coordinator John Swofford said in a statement. "With the ever-changing technology and as we look toward January 2011, when the first games in this package will be played, we know that the number of households that receive ESPN will only continue to grow."
SportsBusiness Daily reported that, according to sources, ESPN bid $125 million per year over four years to get the games, while Fox's top bid was $100 million per year.
A statement from Fox on Monday read, "Even with today's vast economic uncertainties, Fox Sports made a very competitive bid to keep broadcasting BCS games free to every home in America, one that included a substantial rights fee increase, and certainly as much as any over-the-air network could responsibly risk. Unfortunately, the University presidents and BCS commissioners were not satisfied and they've decided to take their jewel events to pay television."
In a statement, ESPN said: "We are not commenting today about a potential BCS agreement. However, we wish to remind everyone that ESPN is distributed on expanded basic, a product enjoyed by 98 million homes that offers the best entertainment buy in America, including many championship caliber sporting events."
Conference commissioners and BCS TV negotiator Barry Frank had been meeting in Chicago with the networks, USA Today reported last week.
Fox reportedly pays about $82.5 million annually to air four of the five BCS games -- the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls and the BCS National Championship Game. ABC, like ESPN an affiliate of The Walt Disney Co., currently has a separate deal to air the Rose Bowl.
Before Fox's current deal, ABC held the rights since 1998, when college football's major conferences implemented the system to crown a national champion.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.