Disney, NFL Reportedly Near Broadcast Rights Deal

. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Walt Disney DIS -1% reportedly has reached a “broad agreement” on a media rights agreement with the National Football League that will see the Super Bowl return to the company’s ABC network for the first time in more than a decade and will renew ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” franchise, according to reports in Sports Business Journal (SBJ) and Variety.

According to SBJ, Disney will pay $2.6 billion annually for MNF, 30 percent higher than its current $2 billion. That is the most any broadcaster pays the NFL for the rights to televise its games. Disney’s current deal with the NFL expires at the end of 2021. Fox, CBS VIAC +3.2%, and NBC’s agreements are due to end in 2022.

“We originally thought ESPN would also make a move on the Thursday Night Football package currently at Fox, yet that outcome now seems less likely to us given the strain the COVID-19 pandemic and any subsequent fallout will place on Disney’s traditional businesses,” according to a 2020 MoffettNathanson client note. “In general, we continue to believe that retaining the NFL – simply the best and most important content – is the highest priority for all the league’s partners.”

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The deal between Disney and the NFL is tentative and could still fall apart, according to SBJ and Variety. NFL spokesman Alex Riethmiller told SPJ: “The report is incorrect, and as we don’t negotiate through the media, there will be no further comment.” He didn’t elaborate further. ESPN declined to comment to SPJ.

During the company’s recent earnings conference call, Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek hinted that there is a limit to how much the media and entertainment giant will pay to broadcast the NFL.

“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,” Chapek said.

Officials from the NFL and ESPN couldn’t immediately be reached to comment for this story.

The NFL has already reached broad agreements with CBS, Fox, and NBC, each of which is paying around $2 billion per year for the rights to broadcast pro football games, according to SBJ, adding that media executives are expecting an announcement from the League as soon as this week.

CBS and Fox will retain their Sunday afternoon packages, and NBC will continue to broadcast Sunday Night Football, while Amazon Prime will take over the Thursday night game from Fox, SBJ says.

Though the NFL remains the most popular U.S. professional sport and is one of the few, even though seven of the 10 most-watched TV shows were NFL programs, including Super Bowl LIV, ratings fell 7 percent year-over-year basis. Viewership for the Super Bowl fell to a 14-year low.

I have covered the media industry for major news organizations such as CBS News and Bloomberg News on and off since around 2000. My specialties include debunking

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