Published: January 12, 2024

NFL in advanced talks with ESPN to acquire equity stake in network: Sources

News of the advanced talks between the NFL and ESPN was first reported by The New York Post. The report said discussions between the two entities are far enough along for the league to have notified owners and the Players Association.

In an email to NFL Network employees on Jan. 9 that was reviewed by The Athletic, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league "has worked to adapt to the changing business environment, aligning resources with key investment opportunities.” The memo did not mention a potential deal with ESPN but did announce what Goodell described as a voluntary program to help some employees transition from the NFL to their next job.

"Additional steps to ensure that our workforce is aligned with the League’s priorities will follow in the months ahead,” Goodell said in the email. "Change is often difficult but it is undeniably an important part of a healthy organization.”

ESPN and the league already have a working relationship, with the network purchasing the rights to 25 NFL games, which includes "Monday Night Football,” for about $2.6 billion per year.

ESPN declined to comment for this story.

ESPN-NFL partnership makes sense but some potential pitfalls

Disney chief Bob Iger has been very public about finding strategic partners for ESPN as the company runs its parallel path on balancing declines in cable subs with big increases to ESPN+ and a growing direct-to-consumer business. Adding NFL Media properties such as the NFL Network and NFL RedZone into the Disney universe would provide significant additive value for Disney/ESPN subscribers and users.

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