The rumored ESPN acquisition of the NFL Network has apparently reached a dead end. I mentioned the plan of the “Leader” adding some of the NFL Network’s content to ESPN Classic back in June and apparently a few sticking points are causing the talks to stall. Via the NY Times….

And [the NFL Network] can’t rely yet, if at all, on the grail of greater availability in the form of a joint venture with ESPN. The proposal, which has been negotiated for a while, would give ESPN Classic’s slot to the NFL Network or fold it into the ESPN family.

But talks are at an impasse, or at least are extremely close to one.

Several issues have kept the deal from being completed, including the structure of the venture and how the ESPN/NFL Network channel would be run. Logic dictates that ESPN would want some of its executives and announcers in the mix.

If this Hail Mary deal somehow goes through, it would demonstrate how much the league needs the breadth and power of ESPN, which once needed the acquisition of N.F.L. games to enhance its credibility and inflate its subscriber rolls.

The league has long been the masterly puppeteer when it sells networks its broadcast and cable rights. But the NFL Network is not so critical to some of Big Cable, largely because its eight games are simulcast on broadcast stations in the markets of the teams playing, limiting the outrage from regions that absolutely must see the games.

This is an amazing shift in power in regards to the NFL and ultimately gives ESPN all the leverage considering that they’re the current holders of the Monday Night Football contract. As the NY Times mentions, ESPN could seemingly get a discount and extension for the current MNF deal ($1.1 Billion) just by agreeing to help the league get their content to the masses.

Plus, ESPN Classic is just a wasteland at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I love the channel, but it’s rare you go to the channel for anything specific. Seems like a great move for all parties involved, but the tricky part will ultimately be deciding which personalities will go on which shows and features. I’m sure ESPN will want to have some of their 50 or so NFL talking heads on the channel and the NFL Network will want to keep theirs as well. It’ll be interesting to see how they work that out if the deal goes down.

NFL Network Hopes ESPN Is Answer to Its Problems (NY Times)
More ESPN Acquisition News! How About The NFL Network? (Awful Announcing)

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