Disney's ESPN, ABC Are Big Winners In NFL Deal

Although paying more than other networks for the rights to NFL games, Walt Disney’s ESPN and ABC could be the only significant TV and streaming platforms to improve amid the league’s expensive $100 million-plus 11-year, multi-network deal, according to one analyst.

“Aside from the NFL, the only other winner from this new deal was Disney,” says MoffettNathanson Research.

Michael Nathanson, senior research analyst, writes that Disney gained in the number of actual games -- including two Super Bowls, which weren’t in the previous deal.

Also, there is a new divisional playoff game added to its deal, flexible scheduling, exclusive “Monday Night Football” and Saturday games on ABC, and “includes the all-important ability to stream all games on ESPN+.”

The deal totals 23 games, as opposed to the current 17.



“The company ended up improving its package with more games that come with significant incremental advertising revenue -- as well as higher quality through its flex schedule optionality.”

For last season, Standard Media Index says, ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” was up 4% to $232.1 million in national TV advertising. MoffettNathanson says ESPN took in an estimated, $8.9 billion in the annual affiliate fees pay TV providers pay to carry the network.

For the new 11-year contract, (a one-year bridge deal and a 10-year deal) MoffettNathanson estimates ESPN's average yearly NFL cost will grow 42% to $2.7 billion.

Other networks will see a sharper hike on average for the length of the deal, with Fox at 105% higher to $2.25 billion (Sunday Afternoon NFC conference games); ViacomCBS, 110% more to $2.1 billion (Sunday afternoon AFC conference games); and NBCUniversal, growing 108% to $2.0 billion (“Sunday Night Football”).

For “Thursday Night Football,” Amazon is projected to pay 52% more than Fox did when it had the package in the last contract -- to $1 billion a year -- with its new exclusive digital media deal.

Overall, MoffettNathanson projects the entire NFL 11-year deal comes to $110.6 billion.

Last year, SMI said, national TV advertising regular-season NFL games grew 3.5% to $2.74 billion. NFL playoffs, excluding the Super Bowl, were slightly down 0.2% to $605.6 million.

According to other estimates, the Big Game day national TV ad spend is now averaging around $400 million to $450 million per year.

Looking to specific NFL packages, for last season, SMI says the most lucrative in terms of national TV advertisers were the Sunday NFL early afternoon games (CBS, Fox), up 10% to $723 million. The Sunday late-afternoon games (Fox, CBS) grew 15% more to $622 million.

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” was down 4% to $600 million, while “Thursday Night Football” (Fox, NFL Network) sank 15% to $350 million; and ESPN’s “MNF” was up 4% to $232.1 million.

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