The NFL is still very much atop the sports heap for Americans, but its value moving forward is at the heart of a heated TV rights debate.
In broad terms, the NFL is believed to have a starting point that is roughly double the cost over the previous contract negotiations signed in 2011, but Disney (ESPN and ABC) is especially resistant.
At issue are the following negotiations with Fox (for the NFC), CBS (AFC), “Sunday Night Football” (NBC), “Monday Night Football”(ESPN) and “Thursday Night Football” with Fox and NFL Network.
ESPN’s agreement ends after this coming season, while the others expire after the 2022 season.
While the other networks seem likely to reach extension agreements before the new league year begins March 17, Disney is pushing back, focused on the price tag for Monday Night Football.
Disney agreed to a $1.9 billion deal for Monday Night Football in 2011, according to a CNBC report, much more than the three broadcast networks are currently paying on their contracts.
Cord-cutting is a factor, though, with Super Bowl ratings declining over the past several years in the 18-49-year-old demographic.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek addressed the NFL talks on a Feb. 11 earnings conference call.
“We’re looking at the long-term trends of sports viewership …” Chapek said. “But our first filter will be to say whether it makes sense for shareholder value going forward.”
The Monday Night Football deal is expensive because Disney also receives highlight rights for ESPN, branding rights for shows and streaming rights.
Disney wants more in a new agreement, too, including doubleheader Monday Night Football games (one on ABC, the Disney-owned broadcast network, and one on ESPN) and for ABC to join the Super Bowl rotation with NBC, CBS and Fox.