More ESPN Acquisition News! How About The NFL Network?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I told you the other day that ESPN was trying to get the opening rounds of the British Open back, and they're have been widespread rumors about various Soccer Leagues the network wants to add. Well the Wall Street Journal is reporting that ESPN is in talks with the NFL to acquire the NFL Network....

According to the Wall Street Journal, Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN cable sports network is in talks to form a partnership with the National Football League's NFL Network, according to people familiar with the situation. Steven Bornstein, chief executive of the NFL Network and previously chairman of ESPN and president of Disney's ABC network, has been holding high-level discussions with Disney executives in recent weeks, according to several people familiar with the situation. Some team owners have been briefed on the discussions, and Disney CEO Robert Iger and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have been involved.

One possible scenario could be a combination of the NFL Network with the ESPN Classic network, which has relatively low ratings but wide distribution on expanded basic tiers. ESPN would likely use its market weight and its eight additional games to seek higher subscription fees than the 16 or 17 cents it currently receives for ESPN Classic, boosting rates to something closer to what the NFL network has been seeking, according to Derek Baine, a senior analyst for SNL Kagan. Under such a scenario, ESPN and the NFL could form a joint venture and share revenue, or ESPN could take an equity stake in the channel.

"We have a long-term and extensive relationship with the NFL and to that end we are always in discussions with them about mutual projects," says Mike Soltys, vice-president of communications for ESPN.
I wonder what ESPN's response would be if you asked them the interview question, "Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?" I'm guessing it would be along the lines of, "owning the world." While this is actually bad news for Soccer fans who were hoping for ESPN Classic to turn into ESPN3 and show primarily Soccer, it's good news for NFL fans. I know a ton of people don't have the NFL Network and a move to ESPN Classic would give innumerable fans a chance to catch the Thursday games (and one Saturday contest) who haven't before.

Again, ESPN's problems aren't in their programming department and a move like this would be a no-brainer if they could pull it off.

NFL in Talks With ESPN, In Bid to End Cable Battle (WSJ-$)

18 Comments:

ESPN3 home of Football, both types.

Pip said...
Jun 21, 2008, 10:52:00 AM  

We're one step closer to the dream becoming reality: Pam Ward doing PbP on NFL games!!!

/Aaron Barnhart

Jun 21, 2008, 11:13:00 AM  

I thought ESPN was the NFL Network?

Deaf Jam said...
Jun 21, 2008, 11:24:00 AM  

Pretty good article from the LA Times regarding this issue. A sports media analyst believes the NFL might team with Disney to pair its network with the Disney block of channels in an effort to get the cable companies to take the NFL along with those Disney offerings. Either take it all, or you get nothing, is the gist of the comment.

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-espn21-2008jun21,0,3719298.story

MikeT said...
Jun 21, 2008, 12:55:00 PM  

And of course, should this merger occur, we can be assured that ESPN will hold the league to the highest scrutiny and not be beholden to bury potential scandals ...

BF said...
Jun 21, 2008, 1:08:00 PM  

No more Collinsworth?

Anonymous said...
Jun 21, 2008, 2:11:00 PM  

We probably shouldn't hold our breath on that one happening, bf.

James said...
Jun 21, 2008, 2:42:00 PM  

All I want to know is this: how long until we see ESPN6, with Bill Simmons at helm, become reality?

James said...
Jun 21, 2008, 2:46:00 PM  

We are getting close to ESPN the Ocho....

Brian said...
Jun 21, 2008, 4:11:00 PM  

I prefer the ESPN3 idea where ESPN Classic is concerned. Where will overflow from ESPN 1 and 2 go if ESPN Classic becomes NFL Network? And if Classic completely becomes NFL Network and retains little of its Classic identity, it will solve nothing. Cable operators will follow Comcast's lead and try to move it off to digital tiers, and might even try to get out of their Classic contract entirely by claiming Classic folded, not merged.

And if ESPN takes over NFL Network, I hope they don't get rid of NFL Network's superlative draft coverage, which doesn't cut to commercial RIGHT as a pick is handed in and actually treats the later rounds with respect.

Morgan Wick said...
Jun 21, 2008, 5:25:00 PM  

ESPNFL!

Anonymous said...
Jun 21, 2008, 5:56:00 PM  

NFL and European soccer leagues could both end up on ESPN3. The english premier league would be the league that ESPN would target and their latest game on Saturday ends at 2 pm. So there would be plenty of time for both the NFL and the EPL.

Jared said...
Jun 21, 2008, 7:32:00 PM  

Maybe if ESPN takes over they'll get rid of that ridiculous "machine" sound effect that plays during EVERY graphic. Such a beating!!

Anonymous said...
Jun 21, 2008, 7:47:00 PM  

id like to point out that now on ESPN.com's main page their is a video tab for random NFL videos which directly link back to nfl.com

Anonymous said...
Jun 21, 2008, 11:26:00 PM  

So anyway you cut it, ESPN Classic will soon go the way of the bullpin car, and championship games starting before. It's a shame because I used to love the channel when it used to show old games and SportsCentury episodes. Now it's essentually ESPN Poker. What a shame.

Anonymous said...
Jun 22, 2008, 12:57:00 AM  

As long as they keep the NFL replay
games, I'm fine with it. The only reason I got digital cable was for NFLN, so I didnt have to watch ESPN.

The Ocho will be here once ESPN buys NBA TV, the golf channel, tennis channel, NHL network and / or Versus.

jg said...
Jun 22, 2008, 6:56:00 PM  

More chances to see Chris Berman? Where's the mute button?

Steve S. said...
Jun 23, 2008, 3:15:00 PM  

I think the L.A. Times story makes more sense, in that NFL Network would get bundled with the Disney channels. The big thing for the cable companies is they want a stake in the network, like they're getting with Versus (Comcast) and the new Baseball Network starting in January. NFL doesn't want any part of that. But it needs wider distribution. So in a thumb to the hard-ass cable companies, NFL Network goes another way and cuts in ESPN (of which it has a strong relationship) on part of the pie instead of the cable companies.

MileHigh said...
Jun 23, 2008, 3:17:00 PM  

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