ESPN and the NFL's relationship is imploding - report


You’d think that America’s most popular sport and America’s largest sports broadcaster would have a healthy and beneficial relationship.

You’d be wrong.

According to the Sports Business Journal, the relationship between the NFL and ESPN is frayed and rapidly approaching a breaking point. It’s reportedly reaching a toxicity level that’s dismantling what should be a mutually beneficial partnership.

After all, ESPN pays the NFL nearly $2 billion per year for rights. That’s a pretty penny in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s pocket.

The NFL, meanwhile, gets unprecedented coverage and visibility. ESPN is, by a large margin, the largest platform for sports in America. Just ask the NHL about the effects of not being constantly promoted on “The Worldwide Leader.”

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Despite all of that, however, it seems the two sports titans are getting on each other’s last nerves.

For the NFL, the main issue seems to be thin skin. Namely, Goodell has taken great offense to ESPN’s negative coverage of various league issues.

The network’s reporting on concussions and CTE, national anthem protests, Goodell’s contentious contract renegotiation, strife in the Patriots organization and the simmering feud between Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have all rubbed the NFL the wrong way, according to the report.

It’s a bad look for the NFL because the league seems to be placing the blame on anything other than itself for some of the negative press it generates. Had ESPN covered nothing but glowing pieces on the league, it would’ve had little to no impact on the NFL’s declining ratings.

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ESPN’s main issue with the NFL seems to be that $1.9 billion it pays the NFL for rights.

CBS, NBC and Fox all pay substantially less than ESPN per year and get far more benefits. For ESPN’s exorbitant price tag, it gets “Monday Night Football” and one wild-card round playoff game. The other networks get “Thursday Night Football” and all other playoff games, and are in a rotation to air the Super Bowl.

To make matters worse for ESPN, it has no flex rights, unlike the other networks, meaning it can’t do anything when it’s has suboptimal matchups. In recent years, ESPN has been stuck with games between bad teams for both “MNF” and the wild-card round.

In particular, ESPN is miffed that the NFL is working with Fox on a competing broadcast of the 2018 NFL draft. Worse yet, as part of Fox’s new “Thursday Night Football” rights, ESPN could lose its lone playoff game broadcast to Fox. If the NFL sets up a successful draft broadcast and hands an extra playoff game to Fox, ESPN will be paying nearly $2 billion a year for bad “Monday Night Football” games and the right to air highlights.

ESPN officials look foolish in all of this because they just seem like poor negotiators who paid an unprecedented premium for far fewer rights. Bad business negotiations deserve very little sympathy.

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“All of those issues just festered, leaving us where we find ourselves now,” an ESPN executive told Sports Business Journal.

The relationship reportedly got considerably worse under ex-ESPN president John Skipper, who placed far more time and effort into fostering a relationship with the NBA. New ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro has his work cut out for him to salvage the relationship between ESPN and the NFL.

ESPN’s current deal with the NFL expires in 2021.

If the relationship can’t be saved by then, it could be a devastating blow to both entities.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
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Topics of Expertise
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