It has taken months of planning and negotiations, but the major conference commissioners have announced the official new format of the system that will replace the BCS. The contracts for it will go for 12 years, so we're locked in at a four-team playoff through the 2025 regular season.
There will be six bowls. Three of them are "contract bowls" where the participants are determined ahead of time in the years when they're not semifinal games. They are the Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac-12), Sugar Bowl (SEC vs. Big 12), and the Orange Bowl (ACC vs. Notre Dame/SEC/Big Ten). There will then be three "host bowls" (formerly known as "access bowls") whose participants will be determined by the selection committee. A seventh guaranteed spot (which will go in the access bowl pool) will go to the highest ranked champion among the mid-major conferences as decided by the selection committee's rankings. The national championship game will be bid out and won't be a part of the six-bowl rotation.
The presidential oversight committee will also take a deal with ESPN for $475 million per year rather than throw it open to negotiations with anyone. When combined with the $80 million each to the Rose and Sugar Bowls plus the $55 million to the Orange Bowl, that's a total of $690 million for only seven postseason games.
Payouts will be higher for the conferences whose teams participate in the six big bowls than those who don't, as you'd expect. One interesting twist is that 10% of the base money (the $475 million) will be reserved and distributed to schools that hit a certain Academic Progress Rate. Programs that don't make that grade will lose that money.
Still to be determined are the three access bowls (though the favorites are the Fiesta, Cotton, and Chick-fil-A) and the new name to replace "BCS".
We'll update with more details once the official release is out.
Here is the official release. It's actually less informative than the reports linked to above.