Thursday December 7, 2023

NFL Seeking Big Bumps to TV Rights Payments

  • Disney has paid $1.9 billion each year for Monday Night Football since 2011.
  • The NFL wants broadcast agreements with networks set by March 17.
Photo: J. Hanisch/K. Jaira-USA Today/Design: Alex Brooks
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The latest development in the NFL media rights saga is that the league wants each of its four network partners to pay 100% more for broadcasts when current contracts expire at the end of the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Disney, which has paid $1.9 billion each year for Monday Night Football since 2011, reportedly rejected a $3.8 billion annual price tag starting in 2022. CBS, NBC and Fox — which all pay in the $1 billion range yearly — are expected to be more agreeable about doubling their payments.

Super Bowl viewership took a tumble this year, but the league is still largely reliable when it comes to producing stellar ratings. NFL games accounted for the five most-watched broadcasts of 2020.

“If there’s a deal that will be accretive to shareholder value, we will certainly entertain that and look at that,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on an earnings call earlier this month. “But our first filter will be to say whether it makes sense for shareholder value going forward.”

The league wants broadcast agreements with networks set by the time the new NFL year officially begins on March 17.

  • CBS and Fox will likely keep Sunday afternoon games and NBC will hold its Sunday Night Football package.
  • ESPN+ is being considered to take over DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package.
  • Disney has expressed interest in making ABC part of the Super Bowl rotation that already includes CBS, NBC and Fox. 

Part of the reason the NFL has sought such high payments from Disney is the extent of the rights package Disney is looking for. In addition to Monday Night Football games on ESPN, Disney wants to secure highlight rights, double-headers that include ABC and streaming rights for ESPN+.

Last year, the NFL struck a 10-year labor agreement with the NFL Players Association to include more postseason games and an 18-week regular season schedule, adding an extra game to the calendar for Disney and every other partner network.

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