Should ESPN Drop 'Monday Night Football'?

ESPN’s ongoing issues of subscriber declines and brand growth prompted one business analyst asking an eye-opening question: Should ESPN consider dropping NFL’s “Monday Night Football”?

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.

4 comments about "Should ESPN Drop 'Monday Night Football'?".
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  1. Bob Coyne from Nexstar Media, May 19, 2017 at 11:50 a.m.

    Drop it.  Good content is getting cheaper and cheaper to make and shoot on your phone!  The economics don't make sense.  Breaking down the offensive line of the Kansas City Chiefs in May, and talking about quickness and good motors is ridiculous!

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 19, 2017 at 12:29 p.m.

    Decisions such as these are not made in a vacuum, Wayne. One of the main reasons for carrying MNF these days is not whether the national network makes a profit by doing so but, rather, the impact of having this premiere attraction available for local or "spot" TV ad sales by ABC's O&Os as well as its affiliated satations all over the country. Typically, local car dealers, banks, etc. cue up to pay premium CPMs to buy time in the MNF "station breaks" every half hour. Take that away and the stations will lose considerable ad revenues. It has long been recognized that high cost national sports features like MNF often function as "loss leaders" for the networks, helping to bind their affiliate loyalties, making the network more valuable to cable system subscribers, etc. Whether this will continue remains to be seen----but it's still a major consideration .

  3. Chuck Lantz from, network, May 21, 2017 at 3:06 p.m.

    Not just "health/well-being concerns", but possibly the almost non-stop criminal activities have an effect on fan loyalty and viewership?

  4. Dave Litheveder from Local Internet Service Company, Inc., May 22, 2017 at 1:28 p.m.

    Why bring this up now? The ESPN MNF contract runs through 2021. Can ESPN drop it before then? If so, at what cost? If the headline is serious, wouldn't that information be useful to the reader?

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