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NFL wants TV partners to double their current deals

Disney/ESPN is pushing back against the league.

Photo by Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL played the 2020 regular season mostly without fans in the stadiums. Some teams allowed a limited number of spectators, but most organizations did not due to the pandemic.

This cost the NFL a ton of money, with estimates saying the league lost somewhere between $3 billion and $4 billion. Because of the lost revenue, the salary cap will likely drop for the first time since the 2011 lockout season.

To offset the losses, the NFL is hoping to finalize its new TV deals before the new league year begins on March 17. Disney’s contract for Monday Night Football expires at the end of the 2021 season. ESPN airs the weekly broadcast, which is going into the final season of the 10-year agreement worth $1.9 billion.

According to a CNBC’s Alex Sherman report, Disney isn’t willing to meet the NFL’s asking price for a new deal.

The NFL is in active discussions on renewal rates with all four of its existing network partners — NBC, CBS, Fox, and Disney-owned ESPN, according to people familiar with the matter. The NFL is hoping to get its primary package renewals completed by March 17, before the start of the new NFL league year, CNBC reported earlier this month.

NBC, CBS and Fox are likely to accept increases closer to 100% than Disney, which is currently paying much more than the three broadcast networks for its Monday Night Football package, said the people, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private.

Disney agreed to pay $1.9 billion annually for Monday Night Football in 2011 — a deal that runs through 2021. That dwarfed the average $1.1 billion annual cost for Fox, $1 billion annual price tag for CBS and $960 million for NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

Disney has already rejected paying anywhere close to $3.8 billion per year for its new deal, said two of the people. Disney CEO Bob Chapek alluded to pushing back on the NFL’s asking price during his company’s earnings conference call last week.

Fox, CBS and NBC all have two years remaining on their deals. TV ratings were down 7% last season as viewers begin to use alternate methods to cable to tune in each week. Sherman says Disney/ESPN is hoping to enhance fans’ streaming options and would also like to have weekly double-headers on Monday night, with one game being on ESPN and the other on ABC.

DirecTV’s rights for the NFL Sunday Ticket package are also up after the season. The company has reportedly made it clear that it will not renew the contract. Amazon, ESPN, NBC and DAZN are the primary candidates to take over the Sunday Ticket rights for the 2022 season.

Television viewing is down across the country, regardless of the product. More-and-more people are opting for lower-cost streaming options or using pirated-streams to watch games.

The NFL has made an effort to use alternative broadcast options. Some Thursday Night Football games were streamed on Amazon, while other matchups could be seen on the Yahoo Sports app. So it won’t be surprising to see the league focus on more over-the-top broadcasts on the internet.

How do you watch NFL games each week? Do you subscribe to Sunday Ticket? Let us know in the comments below.