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Sunday, February 23, 2020

CNBC Reports That Disney Seeking Expanded NFL Rights

by Ray Keating
February 23, 2020

CNBC reported today that The Walt Disney Company is interested in expanding its partnership with the NFL.

Based on interviews with industry sources, CNBC noted that the NFL, once it completes a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players, will be ready to move ahead in arriving at new TV deals. 

NFL owners approved terms for a new 10-year CBA on February 20 that would expand the NFL regular season from 16 to 17 games, reduce the number of preseason games, and expand the number of teams in the playoffs from 12 to 14. The current CBA runs through the 2020 season. The new deal would last 10 years, with the players getting 48 percent of league revenues under a 16-game season and 48.5 percent under a 17-game year. The NFL Players Association still needs to vote, with passage requiring two-thirds of the 32-team player representatives and then a majority of the players.

CNBC noted that the current NFL broadcast deal goes through the 2022 season, and that the NFL would like to stick with more traditional media in the new deal, but at the same time, jacking up the prices for their games. CNBC noted: “Rates on Sunday afternoon games may double, jumping from $1 billion annually to $2 billion annually. ESPN pays $2 billion annually for Monday Night Football and may need to pay $3 billion to keep the package, two of the people said. Renewals will likely be seven or eight-year deals, the people said.”

Regarding the future of Disney (which owns ESPN and ABC) and the NFL, Disney possesses the resources not only to retain its Monday Night Football status, but perhaps snag one of the other packages. In addition, CNBC noted that Iger wants to see ABC back in the playoff and Super Bowl picture.

However, even more interesting is the idea that Disney could grab Sunday Ticket away from AT&T. In fact, AT&T has not exactly been high on its DirecTV acquisition, and has been sending signals that the price for continuing the NFL Sunday Ticket deal, after it expires after the 2022 season as well, is likely to be too costly. AT&T currently pays $1.5 billion annually. Meanwhile, Disney has ESPN+ just waiting for something like Sunday Ticket. But other streamers will likely be in the mix for Sunday Ticket, with CNBC mentioning Amazon, Apple TV+ and YouTube TV.

Disney in competition with Amazon, Apple TV+ and YouTube? Sound familiar? Where the heck is Netflix?

In the end, the NFL will continue to be the king of sports in terms of dollars rolling in the door, with CNBC reporting that annual revenues could double. And no one should be surprised if Disney comes out with Monday Night Football, some post-season action, and Sunday Ticket – at the very least.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution and the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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