Trumping or trumpeting the start of the 2011 campaign, which kicks off tonight with NBC's coverage of the New Orleans Saints-Green Bay Packers opener, ESPN has extended its deal with the National Football league calling for eight more years of Monday Night Football coverage, as well as expanded highlights, international and digital rights.
The pact, valued at an estimated $14.4 billion to $15.2 billion covers 17 MNF contests per season from 2014-21, and could land the programmer a Wild Card playoff game. Those rights fees compare with the worldwide leader's current $1.1 billion per season outlay.
George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN and ABC Sports and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks, said the new NFL deal would not result in an "NFL surcharge to any distributor." He said ESPN's affiliate fees are well-established and would "digest" the new contract, explaining that there is no additional charge associated with any one piece of product. Rather, the monthly license fee reflects the "overall valueof the ESPN service." Bodenheimer emphasized on the call that ESPN has been the most valuable service in cable for 30 years.
Sports Business Journalfirst reported on the deal, the announcement of which may have been delayed owing to the league's protracted lock-out, back in January
The broad multiplatform agreement, which begins in 2014, includes eight full seasons of MNF telecasts; expanded NFL studio programming, which kicks off this week; highlight rights for TV and ESPN.com; the Pro Bowl; the NFL Draft; 3D rights; continued Spanish-language rights on ESPN Deportes; and enhanced international rights.
It will also allow ESPN to simulcast network coverage of ESPN's MNF and NFL studio programs on tablet devices through ESPN's WatchESPN App.
The deal, though, doesn't extend to MNF migrating to mobile phones in that those contests will be available on Verizon Wireless, as part of its four-year, $720 million sponsorship pact that kicked off with the 2010 campaign.. Verizon also streams NBC's Sunday Night Football and NFL Network games, plus the ad hoc NFL RedZone scoring/highlights service covering the Sunday afternoon games..
The biggest content uptick for ESPN is tied to the rights to more than 500 new hours of NFL-branded studio programming per year, starting this week. ESPN's Emmy Award-winning Sunday NFL Countdown pre-game show will expands to three hours, while NFL Live doubles to one hour during its daily telecasts throughout the year.
Monday Night Countdown, NFL PrimeTime and NFL Matchup will continue, and ESPN will create more NFL-branded studio programming, including NFL 32 and NFL Kickoff, both debuting this week.
Bodenheimer said the deal would fuel ESPN's business throughout the year and the NFL pact touches 35 shows on all platforms.
He said that ESPN was the leader on the authenticated front -- qualified subscribers will be able to see MNF on WatchESPN via iPads and tablets for the first time under this new contract -- and this deal will "continue to help us lead the way." He averred that this app adds values for affiliates.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the contract includes "a path" for ESPN to secure a Wild Card playoff game, but would not put a timeframe on when ESPN might enter the postseason. He noted that the league is committed to its current format through the 2013 season, which features NBC airing a pair of contests and CBS and Fox one apiece.