I told you the other day that ESPN was trying to get the opening rounds of the British Open back, and they’re have been widespread rumors about various Soccer Leagues the network wants to add. Well the Wall Street Journal is reporting that ESPN is in talks with the NFL to acquire the NFL Network….
According to the Wall Street Journal, Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN cable sports network is in talks to form a partnership with the National Football League’s NFL Network, according to people familiar with the situation. Steven Bornstein, chief executive of the NFL Network and previously chairman of ESPN and president of Disney’s ABC network, has been holding high-level discussions with Disney executives in recent weeks, according to several people familiar with the situation. Some team owners have been briefed on the discussions, and Disney CEO Robert Iger and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have been involved.
One possible scenario could be a combination of the NFL Network with the ESPN Classic network, which has relatively low ratings but wide distribution on expanded basic tiers. ESPN would likely use its market weight and its eight additional games to seek higher subscription fees than the 16 or 17 cents it currently receives for ESPN Classic, boosting rates to something closer to what the NFL network has been seeking, according to Derek Baine, a senior analyst for SNL Kagan. Under such a scenario, ESPN and the NFL could form a joint venture and share revenue, or ESPN could take an equity stake in the channel.
“We have a long-term and extensive relationship with the NFL and to that end we are always in discussions with them about mutual projects,” says Mike Soltys, vice-president of communications for ESPN.
I wonder what ESPN’s response would be if you asked them the interview question, “Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?” I’m guessing it would be along the lines of, “owning the world.” While this is actually bad news for Soccer fans who were hoping for ESPN Classic to turn into ESPN3 and show primarily Soccer, it’s good news for NFL fans. I know a ton of people don’t have the NFL Network and a move to ESPN Classic would give innumerable fans a chance to catch the Thursday games (and one Saturday contest) who haven’t before.
Again, ESPN’s problems aren’t in their programming department and a move like this would be a no-brainer if they could pull it off.