Disney and the NFL are reportedly sparring over a proposed TV deal that would cost the ABC and ESPN owner nearly $4 billion every year

Aleeya Mayo
·2 min read
In a photo provided by ESPN Images, the draft board is seen before the start of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Bristol, Conn. (Allen Kee/ESPN Images via AP)
In a photo provided by ESPN Images, the draft board is seen before the start of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Bristol, Conn. (Allen Kee/ESPN Images via AP) Associated Press
  • The NFL is asking networks to pay double the current rates to broadcast league games, CNBC reports.

  • That proposed deal would cost Disney $3.8 billion annually to broadcast games on ABC and ESPN.

  • Disney is pushing back on the 100% price increase, in part due to low TV viewership.

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Disney and the NFL are currently negotiating a new contract for broadcast rights, but Disney has pushed back on the proposed $3.8 billion annual price tag, according to CNBC.

The NFL is seeking double what networks pay in the existing partnerships. Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC, is showing reluctance to pay a higher price, while NBC, FOX, and CBS are more likely to accept some increased costs.

Disney currently pays the highest premium for NFL games: In 2011, the media conglomerate signed a 10-year contract with the NFL to pay $1.9 billion annually to broadcast Monday Night Football on ESPN. The other networks pay about $1 billion. NBC carries Sunday Night Football for $960 million.

A sticking point in the negotiations with Disney seems to be television viewership. This year's Super Bowl had the lowest viewership of any Super Bowl game in the past 10 years.

"In terms of the Super Bowl being down, and as we're going into rights conversations with them, that's obviously something we're considering, but more important than any one Super Bowl, we're looking at the long-term trends of sports viewership," Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during Disney's quarterly earnings call earlier this month.

Chapek added that the company makes decision based on what "makes sense for shareholder value going forward."

The decline in traditional television viewership is stark in contrast to streaming platforms that got a boost during the pandemic. Streaming subscriptions in the US were up 50% at the end of 2020, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal.

According to CNBC, Disney gets branding rights for shows, highlight rights for ESPN, and streaming rights, in addition to the broadcast rights. Disney is also reportedly asking for two Monday Night Football games - to air on ESPN and ABC simultaneously - and to be considered as a broadcast partner for future Super Bowls, alongside CBS, NBC, and FOX.

Representatives for Disney and the NFL did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

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