Please wait...
Please wait...

NFL in talks to acquire stake in Disney-owned sports cable network ESPN

The NFL is in talks to acquire a stake in sports cable network ESPN

American football league the NFL is in talks to acquire a stake in Disney-owned sports cable network ESPN.

The deal being discussed would also see ESPN taking control of NFL Media, the division of the sports organisation that houses networks NFL Network and RedZone, its production unit, and streamer NFL+.

According to the New York Post, which first reported the news, talks are advanced enough that the league has informed team owners and the players association. However, there are no guarantees any agreement will come to fruition.

Any deal would likely be a complex one, given that some of Disney’s biggest competitors (CBS, NBC, Amazon, Fox and YouTube) all pay substantial sums to the NFL for a slice of the rights to show NFL games.

Since returning as Disney CEO in late 2022, Bob Iger has been strategising around how best to position ESPN for the future as cord-cutting continues to eat into its subscription revenue. As of June 2023, the sports cablenet is in 72.5 million homes in the US, compared with more than 98 million homes in 2013.

Over the past 12 months, Iger has spoken on several occasions of the need to find one or more strategic partners for ESPN.

The move to find new partners comes as ESPN gears up to launch as a direct-to-consumer streaming service for the first time in the US. There is currently an ESPN+ service, but its content is complementary to the sports games and matches offered on the flagship cable service. Disney has said the direct-to-consumer ESPN service will launch no later than the end of 2025.

Please wait...