As the NFL’s current TV rights deals are set to expire next year, reports from earlier this month said the league and its network partners were nearing renewals without much change. Thursday Night Football was considered the main point of contention, but according to CNBC’s Alex Sherman, Disney is pushing back on an exorbitant rights fee increase.
A few years ago, there were rumors ESPN could move on from Monday Night Football and their NFL media partnership altogether. The latest speed bump in negotiations between Disney and the NFL won’t revert toward that path, but ESPN is unwilling to double the $1.9 billion per year it currently pays in rights fees.
As the NFL hopes to lock their new rights deals in by March 17, the start of the new league year, they’re asking broadcast partners to pay between 50-100 percent more than their current deals. For ESPN, it would mean paying between $3 – $4 billion per year for NFL media rights which features the Monday Night Football package.
The $1.9 billion Disney currently pays is already significantly more than the league’s other network deals. FOX is the closest, paying $1.1 billion annually, a deal that is similarly set to expire after 2022. Despite Monday Night Football no longer having the prime time gravity it once garnered, ESPN’s $1.9 billion NFL Media agreement includes highlights, branding and streaming rights.
The NFL isn’t the only party asking for more. While ESPN might not be willing to double their annual rights fee, Disney has requested more Monday Night Football doubleheaders, streaming rights, and the opportunity to enter the network Super Bowl rotation. All of which would require a price increase in rights fees from the league.