Disney spends just under $2 billion per year for media rights to broadcast Monday Night Football on ESPN. The NFL is currently negotiating its deals with its network partners, and according to reports, it is over $1 billion apart with Disney, based on current positions.
Over the weekend, it was reported that the NFL is looking to nearly double payments from its television partners. For Disney/ESPN, which pay a premium to broadcast Monday Night Football, that mean a seismic jump to around $3.5 billion. Disney's last 10-year deal, which was reached in 2011, is up.
It is not a huge surprise that the network is balking at that huge price tag. It already pays about twice what the rest of the networks do for the MNF rights.
John Ourand of Sports Business Journalreports that the two sides are around $1 billion apart on their opening offers. He says that the NFL is looking for $3.5 billion, while Disney/ESPN came in with a $2.4 billion offer to open negotiations.
Right now, the NFL has deals with CBS, FOX, and NBC for its Sunday coverage. The league's NFL Network also broadcasts Thursday Night Football games.
The leverage battle here will basically come down to whether the league can find another interested buyer to force ESPN's hand here. It is hard to imagine the network, which dedicates so much time to the NFL between news and debate shows, dropping live broadcasts, even with how it has struggled to figure out its Monday Night Football broadcasts in recent years.
Monday Night Football aired on ABC from 1970-2005, before moving over to sister-network ESPN. There have also been rumors that the broadcast could move back to ABC, which could play a big part in the situation as well. We'll have more as the two sides hash out this huge negotiation.