ESPN Came Close To Buying Half Of The NFL Network For $2 Billion


Now this is my type of news.

In Monday morning’s New York Times, im Miller and Richard Sandomir are reporting that ESPN came very close to buying half the NFL Network for $2 billion four years ago.

Reports suggest the deal was so close to being done, that brass at ESPN were preparing to celebrate before the deal fell through and never materialized.

Different as they are, ESPN and the NFL Network nearly became partners. In 2009, the league courted ESPN in a series of exhaustive negotiations that the league hoped would conclude with ESPN acquiring 50 percent of the NFL Network for $2 billion, according to league and network executives.

To help entice ESPN, the N.F.L. offered to reduce the price of “Monday Night Football.” The new “Monday Night” contract, which starts next season, will have ESPN paying an average of $1.9 billion a season, plus $100 million annually for a wild-card playoff game. The executives involved in the talks said the N.F.L. offered to cut the fee to $1.5 billion a year, with the playoff game tossed in as a signing bonus.

Perhaps even more attractive to ESPN than paying less was the N.F.L.’s suggestion that its “Monday Night” schedule would be improved. ESPN’s schedule has lacked the strength of NBC’s Sunday night games largely because the league turned “Sunday Night Football” into its marquee prime-time showcase.

The N.F.L. wanted more than a big investor; it coveted some of ESPN’s college games. With football games from the elite Big Ten Conference or the Southeastern Conference, the NFL Network would have more live events — its 13 N.F.L. games provided only about 39 hours of live event programming — enhancing its status as a football channel.

ESPN’s willingness to give up some of its best college games proved the most critical issue, and the network ultimately backed away, reluctant to cede a commodity as priceless as a part of its college football schedule — regardless of the benefits to its N.F.L. business. Talks got so promising that cases of Champagne were ordered and stashed away at N.F.L. headquarters in Manhattan for the anticipated celebration of an agreement.

ESPN was hoping to gain better Monday night games, a cheaper deal for Monday night games, and free playoffs, but the deal never picked up steam again.

“Talks got so promising that cases of Champagne were ordered and stashed away at N.F.L. headquarters in Manhattan for the anticipated celebration of an agreement.”

The main factors sited by the New York Times for the deal falling through were:

1.) ESPN didn’t want to give up its best college football games, and 2.) the network “did not want to get involved in the contentious efforts to help the NFL Network gain additional distribution.”