Disney 'pushing back' against NFL price hike in rights negotiations
Walt Disney, the US media giant, is pushing back against the NFL’s increased asking price for a renewed rights deal and appears unwilling to raise its fee to continue showing the top American football league, it has been reported.
The league has been in talks with its four main television partners for several months and national networks NBC, CBS and Fox are expected to accept a price hike, but Disney-owned ESPN is opposed to such an increase, according to CNBC.
The NFL is keen to get all renewals for the 2022-23 season onwards completed by next month.
Discussions are understood to be ongoing between Disney and the NFL to keep the Monday Night Football programme on its sports broadcaster ESPN, which presently pays $2 billion per year in a deal that runs to the end of the 2021-22 season.
The NFL is believed to be seeking an eight- to 10-year contract in its next rights deals which could fetch as much as $100 billion in total from the league’s multiple television partners, but Disney chief executive Bob Chapek recently warned that it would not pay over the odds.
In an earnings call earlier this month, Chapek said: "We are looking at the long-term trends of sports viewership. We have had a long relationship with the NFL. If there is a deal that will be accretive to shareholder value, we will certainly entertain that and look at that. But our first filter will be to say whether it makes sense for shareholder value going forward."
Disney’s present $2 billion deal, agreed in 2011, was an increase from the $1.1 billion it previously paid.
CNBC reports that the entertainment giant is requesting double-headers on Monday nights and for its sister network ABC to be included in the rotation of broadcasters to air the Super Bowl, joining the other TV partners.
The NFL is keen to double its rights fee despite ratings falling by 7 per cent for the regular season in 2020, and a record-low audience of 96.4 million for this month's Super Bowl on CBS.
The regular season averaged 15.4 million viewers, the lowest since 2017.
Fox and CBS both currently pay just over $1 billion per annum for the Sunday afternoon NFL package, while NBC pays $950 million per year for the coveted Sunday Night Football games.
With the higher asking price, the NFL is believed to be factoring in an extended 18-week season next year, and the expanded playoffs, which came into effect in the 2020-21 campaign.