All of the NFL’s current rights deals expire after 2022 so negotiations gave been ongoing with all of the current and potential rightsholders for some time now. While it was reported earlier this month that not much was expected to change, aside from some potential changes to the league’s Thursday package, there does now seem to be one sticking point that might be throwing a wrench in the plans.
According to CNBC’s Alex Sherman, the NFL is looking to essentially double the cost for all of its current network partners, but Disney, who owns ABC and ESPN, is pushing back on that. While the NFL is hoping to get all of their deals done by March 17, which is the start of the new NFL league year, The Mouse might be making that a bit harder to do.
Per Sherman, all of the league’s other partners (NBC, CBS, Fox) are expected to accept the new rates, but Disney is scoffing at the high rate for Monday Night Football broadcasts. Disney paid $1.9 billion per year for Monday Night Football in 2011, a deal that expires this year. That’s way more than what the other partners pay for their packages ($1.1 billion/year for Fox, $1 billion/year for CBS, $960 million/year for NBC’s Sunday Night Football). Disney has reportedly already rejected a deal that would have had them pay $3.8 billion/year to maintain the MNF rights and Disney CEO Bob Chapek alluded to these ongoing negotiations in their most recent earnings conference call.
ESPN already pays more than other networks for less.
The NFL is king, but It may not have full leverage here because what is alternative to Disney money.
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) February 19, 2021
“We’re looking at the long-term trends of sports viewership,” said Chapek on Feb. 11. “We’ve had a long relationship with the NFL. If there’s a deal that will be accretive to shareholder value, we will certainly entertain that and look at that. But our first filter will be to say whether it makes sense for shareholder value going forward.”
While it might seem strange for Disney to pay more than the other NFL broadcasters for Monday Night Football, that package does include highlight rights, branding rights, and the ever-important streaming rights as well.
According to Sherman, Disney is making some extra demands that might necessitate larger fees. They’ve reportedly asked the NFL for more double-header games on Monday nights, with one airing on ABC, as well as a chance to be part of the Super Bowl network rotation alongside the other three networks. Disney is said to also want more flexibility in terms of how it can offer streaming rights to consumers, perhaps as part of a Disney+ package.
It’s also worth noting that the league still wants to add another game to the schedule, which would increase the number of offerings available to each network, invariably raising the price.