• Loading stock data...
Saturday, February 24, 2024
Rates for the 2024 Best Venue Awards increase this Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET

ESPN Is the Biggest Winner from NFL’s Mega Media Deals

  • ESPN lands the first two Super Bowls in its 42-year history.
  • ESPN also gets flexible scheduling for Monday Night Football.
Allen Kee-ESPN Images)

The Walt Disney Co. has become ESPN’s secret weapon.

Backed by its parent company, ESPN has emerged as the biggest winner from the NFL’s new $113 billion, 11-year media rights deals.

Since its founding in 1979, ESPN has dreamed of landing the Super Bowl.

Under its new 10-year agreement from 2023 to 2032, the network will retain “Monday Night Football.” But it will also produce its first two Super Bowl telecasts that will air on sister network ABC after the 2026 and 2030 seasons. 

With distribution in over 100 million U.S. homes, ABC’s reach enables ESPN to sidestep the loss of millions of U.S. homes from cord-cutting and cord-shaving. 

That’s why ESPN has been televising or simulcasting more sports content on ABC, including the NFL, NBA, college sports and European soccer.

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro emphasized the contract is the latest example of the growing alliance between the $65 billion Disney and the NFL.

“The league has been clear that a priority of theirs is, of course, reach, and through the breadth of our programming and platforms we offer at the Walt Disney Company, we will certainly deliver,” Pitaro said.

Landing Super Bowls is the biggest headline for ESPN. But it also scored flexible scheduling for “Monday Night Football.”

Under the new deal, ESPN will collaborate with the NFL to flex in better MNF matchups during Weeks 12-17. The lack of flex scheduling has doomed many MNF games between losing teams to poor ratings.

Previously, only NBC boasted flex scheduling for “Sunday Night Football.” The flex was a “critical component” to renewing MNF, said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and original content: “Obviously from time to time there’s been games that haven’t had the stakes that you would want in order to drive audience.”

All told, ESPN/ABC will expand their regular season MNF coverage to 23 games from 17. 

Pitaro noted ESPN could also “MegaCast” the Super Bowl with multiple presentations the way it did for its Wild Card telecast this season — and the way it does annually for the College Football Playoff National Championship.

On the digital front, Chris Berman and Booger McFarland’s “NFL PrimeTime” will return to ESPN+. The iconic highlights show has become the most-watched, non-game content on the streaming platform. The deal also allows Disney to simulcast all ESPN/ABC games on ESPN+.

“At the heart of it, too, is an expansion on the digital,” noted Hans Schroeder, the NFL’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “I’m not sure there’s anybody in the media landscape in this country today that is growing, innovating and evolving their approach and their business in the way that Disney is.”

While staggering, the numbers look better for Disney from a financial standpoint too. ESPN will still pay the most annually of any NFL TV partner: $2.7 billion. 

But the 35% increase from its previous $2 billion annual deal is significantly lower than the 100%-plus increase NBC is paying to retain “Sunday Night Football.” Or the roughly 100% increases being paid by CBS and Fox to keep their Sunday afternoon AFC/NFC packages. 

ESPN will also continue to televise the NFL Draft (fending off a challenge by Fox) and the Pro Bowl, and it gets comprehensive NFL highlight rights. Burke called these highlights the “oxygen” that fuels ESPN’s NFL pre and post-game programming as well as studio shows like “NFL Live.”

Pitaro added ESPN’s also had “exploratory conversations” about acquiring the “Sunday Ticket” package of out-of-market games long associated with DirecTV. Under the new contracts, all of the NFL TV partners gain digital rights for their streaming services, including ESPN (ESPN+), CBS (Paramount+), NBC (Peacock), Fox (Tubi) and Amazon Prime Video (15 “Thursday Night Football” games).

When ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen asked the late NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle about a Super Bowl back in 1979, Rozelle told him, “Not today, Bill, but someday.”

Over four decades later, Rasmussen celebrated on Twitter: “Someday has arrived – the Super Bowl on ESPN!!!! Outstanding!”

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Sep 24, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of the Oakland Athletics dugout after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Murky Future: Everything You Need to Know About the A’s Move to Las Vegas

Breaking down one of the most drawn-out, multifaceted sagas in sports.
Superdome Super Bowl

Superdome Renovations to Finish in Time for Super Bowl LIX

Renovations will total $500 million and have been ongoing for years.

WBD Touts Streaming Profit, Sports Alliance While Stock Is Hammered

TNT Sports parent sees tough reaction from Wall Street to latest earnings.
Arizona Diamondbacks

Diamondbacks Heading Into Another Season With MLB in Charge of Media Rights

The D-Backs chose the league over getting their own over-the-air partners.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How the Negro Leagues Are Staying in the Game

0:00
0:00

Featured Today

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.
February 17, 2024

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.
February 16, 2024

Wilson Introduced an Airless Basketball for $2,500. We Had Questions

The black, 3D-printed ball appeared in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest.
Emily Henegar, a baker and content creator, made a batch of NFL-inspired cookies featuring Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
February 11, 2024

The ‘Life-Changing’ Economy of Taylor Swift’s NFL Outfits

Appearing in Swift’s game-day wardrobe has been “life-changing” for small businesses.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
FanDuel
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Adidas
Portland, OR
Chad Powers

Tuned In: Hulu Turning Glen Powell Into Eli Manning With ‘Chad Powers’ Comedy

The ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ star will play the comedic QB Manning created for ESPN+.
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi following the victory against Los Angeles FC at BMO Stadium.
February 21, 2024

Lionel Messi Phenomenon Spurs Specialized Media Attention

Messi joins Taylor Swift and Beyoncé for celebrities to have their beat writer at ‘USA Today.’
A Bundesliga camera operator during a match
February 22, 2024

Fan Power in European Soccer Grows As German Football Deal Scuttled 

Weeks of increasingly strident protests lead to end of proposed private equity deal.
Sponsored

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.
FuboTV signage
February 21, 2024

FuboTV Lawsuit Against Sports Streaming Giants Likely Faces Uphill Climb

Legal and regulatory drama heightens around the high-profile streaming alliance.
Athletes Unlimited
February 21, 2024

Athletes Unlimited Is Getting All Four of Its Women’s Pro Leagues on ESPN Platforms

The league is reducing its ESPN+ games to make room for other partners.
Amazon-NFL
February 21, 2024

Tuned In: Amazon Said to Be Paying Record $120M to Stream NFL Playoff Game

Is JJ Redick aiming to become ESPN’s Charles Barkley?
Oakland-A's
February 20, 2024

A’s Continue to Make History With Their Broadcast Team While Vegas Future Is Uncertain

NBC California hires Harry Caray’s grandson to join the broadcast team.