The National Football League (NFL) is in advanced talks to acquire an ownership position in ESPN, the largest sports media conglomerate in the United States. The possible deal would result in ESPN assuming control of NFL Media, the primary marketing and communications division of the professional football league, which runs NFL Network, NFL.com, NFL RedZone, NFL Films, and NFL+.
The NFL has been shopping its media division for years, securing over $110 billion in media deals in recent years with ESPN, Amazon, CBS, Fox, NBC, and YouTube. ESPN currently pays the NFL about $2.6 billion a year for approximately 25 games, most of which air on the cable network’s Monday Night Football prime time slot.
The NFL, which was once opposed to sports betting, has since embraced it after experiencing an increase in fan engagement, bigger television and streaming numbers, and overall interest in the sports they sanction. Sports betting has been credited for the increased broadcasting contracts the NFL has subsequently struck.
In recent years, ESPN teamed with Penn Entertainment, the regional casino operator based in Pennsylvania, paying ESPN $1.5 billion over 10 years to leverage the sports media brand into its new sportsbook entity. ESPN is also reportedly developing a direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming service that it hopes to launch in 2025. The NFL deal with ESPN won’t include the coveted Sunday Ticket, which was secured by Google’s YouTube TV in late 2022 for more than $2 billion a season.
The possible acquisition of ESPN by the NFL marks a significant shift in the relations between professional sports leagues and sports media conglomerates, showcasing the increasing importance of sports media in shaping the future of the industry. As ESPN continues to expand its business partnerships in the sports world, it is likely to solidify its position as the leading sports media conglomerate in the United States.