The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand dropped a Friday afternoon stunner with a report that the Disney-owned ESPN and NFL are in “advanced talks” on a deal that would give the league an equity stake in ESPN.

Per Marchand, ESPN would take control of NFL Media, including NFL Network. In return, the league would receive an equity stake in ESPN.

Marchand added that discussions are far enough along both the owners and the Players Association are being briefed on the details. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement requires that both owners and players agree on such an arrangement that would impact shared revenues. The NY Post reporter added that the deal “could take months” to be finalized.

Both sides have something to gain in this potential arrangement. Disney CEO Bob Iger made it known over the summer that they were looking for a strategic partner to share ownership of ESPN with, raising questions about whether or not that could be a tech company, private equity company, or one of the major sports leagues. However it shook out, the hope is presumed that the partner in question would help Disney and ESPN strengthen its direct-to-consumer offering, which is expected to be ready for the market by 2026.

“I imagine we will have more to say about this in the coming months,” Iger told reporters in November of their strategic partner plans. Seems like he wasn’t just blowing smoke.

Meanwhile, the NFL has been looking for a way to get out of the NFL Network business for some time but has been unable to find any takers. This deal would allow them to let ESPN run the show on not just the network but also, Red Zone, NFL Films, and NFL+.

There are plenty of questions ahead about this potential arrangement. How does it impact ABC and ESPN’s NFL media rights and future negotiations? How will it impact the reporting that ESPN does on the NFL? Will ESPN and NFL Media talent crossover? Does NFL Network simply become another ESPN channel? Does NFL+ still need to exist or just get folded into ESPN+? What happens to Red Zone?

Very interesting days ahead if this arrangement goes through, to say the least.

[New York Post]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to