ESPN Renews Monday Night Football Contract

ESPN will continue broadcasting Monday Night Football through 2021. The Mothership ponied up an estimated $15.5 billion over eight years (its current deal runs through 2013), or $1.95 billion per season.

NFL contract rights are the most valuable in sports. Arguably, they launched and legitimized FOX during the 1990s. But I think ESPN vastly over-paid for this deal.

Consider: its current deal includes ZERO playoff games. By re-upping, ESPN “might” have the option of televising a Wild Card playoff game at sometime in the future.

Yikes.

ESPN will have expanded rights on its website and on mobile phones. It will also have wider international broadcast rights for MNF.

NBC Sports, which hosts Sunday Night Football, broadcasted Super Bowl XLIII and will have Super Bowl XLVI next February. Right now, they’re paying the NFL $603 million.

CBS is paying $619.8 million for its national coverage. Fox’s current deal is worth $257.1 million.

Since ESPN got Monday Night Football in 2006, they’ve played second fiddle to NBC’s SNF. SNF is the top-rated show in America. The reason: they show the best game of the week.

Look at the contrast of matchups last year. ESPN showed Jacksonville/Tennessee in Week Six. Who wants to watch that? They had San Francisco/Arizona in late November. Yuck.

Even their premier games turned into duds. The New York Giants torched Dallas in late October and New England pummeled the Jets in early December.

Contrast that with NBC. It had the Manning brothers square off in Week Two, Brett Favre’s return to Green Bay in Week Seven and the Steelers and Ravens blood-feud in Week Thirteen.

I could go on and on.

This year doesn’t look much better for the Mothership. I don’t see one must-watch game, where both teams are compelling. NBC has two in Week One: Last night’s Green Bay/New Orleans match-up and Sunday’s Dallas/New York Jets duel.

I understand why ESPN needs to keep its NFL broadcast rights. I just hope they get better games in this deal. Lord knows they’re paying for them.

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