Sports Business Daily reports that ESPN and the NFL are close to an extension of the deal that brings the Monday night package to the cable behemoth for either nine or ten years past the current end of the contract that is scheduled to run out in 2014.
Disney, ESPN's corporate parent, is reportedly prepared to pay between $1.8 and $1.9 billion per year for a package that would not only include the telecast, but broadband and mobile rights. ESPN is already paying $1.1 billion per year for Monday Night rights, which is more than double what the other four carriers, CBS, FOX and NBC, are paying.
The deal, according to Sports Business Daily, may include a playoff game, but would not include rights to the Super Bowl. To date, the NFL is the only major American sports league not to air one of its postseason games on a cable channel, but paying nearly $2 billion a year may clear the way for such an arrangement.
ESPN would reportedly retain highlights and a portion of the draft, which it has carried since 1980.
Josh Krulewitz, ESPN vice president of communications, said in an e-mail statement, "We continue to have conversations with the NFL and have not yet reached a new agreement.
The deal comes as the league and its players are at odds over terms for a new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal expires at the end of this season, and a new television contract would only strengthen the hand of the NFL owners, since league carriers are required to continue paying the league even if there is a lockout next season.
It also sets the stage for a dramatic rights fee increase for which ever networks gets the next deal with the league, especially as all of the networks experienced significant ratings growth this season. The league's Sunday Night Football package, which airs on NBC, is the No.1 prime-time show in all of television this year.