Todd Juenger, senior media analyst for Bernstein Research, estimates the Walt Disney Company spends $1.9 billion a year for this content. Dropping it from its schedule could increase operating income by 50% from its current level of $4 billion a year.
Rights fees for “MNF,” one of the most-viewed sports programs on TV, come with other NFL programming: the Pro Bowl, the NFL draft, and other related football content.
Juenger says subscriber fees from pay TV providers, which amount to $1 billion a year, would likely not decline, given the loss of “Monday Night Football.” He suggest ESPN could reinvest that money for better upside.
“They only show 17 games per year [around $100 million per game], on a one-off night (Mondays), which has been significantly diluted by the addition of Sunday and Thursday night games,” says Juenger. He suggests ESPN could still cover many NFL games -- through highlights and talk shows.
Overall, he worries that growth and profitability for TV networks with NFL programming is becoming harder to achieve.
“Taking a long view, one could also question how much longer NFL will remain as popular as it has been,” he says. “There are already signs of decline [with some ratings declines]. We would argue this is due to both the NFL over-diluting the product, as well as the health/well-being concerns for the athletes.”
Looking at the overall sports programming picture -- including future higher TV rights fees, Juenger wonders whether new, and crucial pay TV subscriber fee deals, will be tied to new rights renewals with the major professional leagues.