As the Hollywood strikes by the Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild reached a fever pitch in September, Disney was able to get permission from the NFL to simulcast most of ESPN’s Monday Night Football schedule onto ABC affiliates as a way to shore up their evening programming.
That decision paid off for Disney and ABC, but all of the other networks aren’t too happy about it.
“Most of the broadcasters are ‘furious….at the NFL for simulcasting Monday Night Football on ABC,” said Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand on the new episode of The Marchand & Ourand Sports Media Podcast. “Because it’s on ABC, they’re getting a bigger audience and now everybody’s running around trying to sell ads in what they call the scatter market.”
The scatter market is an advertising term that refers to ad inventory that was not purchased during Upfronts, which didn’t exist for ABC because, at the time, they didn’t have the broadcast rights to MNF. Normally, TV networks are able to sell ads on NFL games at a higher rate in the scatter market. However, perhaps due to ABC’s MNF inventory and Prime Video’s strong TNF ratings, those scatter market ads are selling for the same rates as Upfront ads, if not for lower rates. And networks like CBS and Fox are pissed.
“Every single one of the broadcast networks is lobbying the NFL, saying ‘This simulcast on ABC, it better be a one-year deal,'” added Ourand.
If this animus sounds familiar, it’s because cable companies were “furious” in September with the news of the simulcast as well, saying that Disney was “double-dipping” by making companies pay for ESPN and ABC when they are airing the same programming.
The writer’s strike has since ended but SAG remains on strike with no idea of when it might end. Chances are, the dust will settle by this time next football season. Either way, the NFL may have some very angry billion-dollar broadcasting partners on its hands if they don’t think ahead about the impacts of a similar plan for next year.