When the future of the NFL TV deals are discussed these days, it is almost always about the potential new kids on the block: the Amazons, the Facebooks and the Twitters. But while there is definitely merit for those platforms possibly being factors, there may be an old-fashioned alternative to how the NFL is viewed in the future.
It could be another legacy network.
Sources have told The Post that ABC is kicking around the idea of going hard after CBS’ or Fox’s NFL Sunday packages. Besides the games on Sundays, it also would allow ABC to pick up a Super Bowl or two.
This is somewhat speculation at this point, informed by sources familiar with Disney’s discussions. ESPN and ABC — both owned by Disney — declined comment.
It is a tad early to fully figure out what will transpire on the most important rights in American sports television, as Fox’s and CBS’ NFL packages do not end until after the 2022 season. Fox’s Thursday night and NBC’s Sunday night are also up in 2022. ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” is done after 2021.
But it is another reason to believe NFL’s fees will only increase in their next round of deals.
On the surface, the idea of Disney spending big for ABC doesn’t fully align with the company’s move toward over-the-top programming. After launching ESPN+, Disney+ is on the horizon. Disney is clearly trying to move direct-to-consumer.
However, Disney could try to prop up ABC by using Sunday football to lure more male viewers, which it currently lacks. It also has been proven for years that the NFL is either the top reason, or one of them, for an overall broadcast network’s success.
The digital players are not looked at as legitimate threats for the Sunday regionalization packages.
They also would likely have no chance at NBC’s Sunday window — which is the highest-rated show in primetime — and, at this point, it might be dubious to think they could acquire Monday night or Thursday on their own.
The NFL could divvy up the pie differently next round to bring a digital player in with a bigger piece. They have not yet earned the trust to be given a major package on their own.
Last summer, Amazon, in England, had exclusive rights for the US Tennis Open. It went so poorly that they had to disable comments.
The Amazons, Twitters, Facebooks and Yahoos could very well continue to do side deals — such as Amazon acquiring the digital rights to Thursday night — though it is unclear if that has had much, if any, impact. Their motivation to do these megadeals is not yet certain, though Netflix, for example, would be an unlikely player as it has a no-ad-based product and its model is not based on live programming.
The upstart DAZN, which is boxing-centric for now in the US, has loads of cash and a record with its international deals. Another traditional player, Turner, could be a bigger wild card for the main rights, like Monday night, depending how its incoming ownership, AT&T, views spending more on football.
So the business of TV is definitely changing, but maybe not everything.
Upon Further Review: ESPN’s MegaCast of the College Football Championship is a no-complaint zone because it is all just additive and you can just watch the traditional approach, if you so please.
The main broadcast still would be my top choice for viewing if I could only have one, even though Chris Fowler is a much better studio man than he is on play-by-play. He has improved over the years as his reps increase and sounds a bit more instinctual. But he is not on top of everything, like he was on “GameDay” for years.
As for the MegaCasts, ESPN2’s Field Pass featuring Adam Amin and Steve Levy with a host of analysts was probably my favorite. Amin is very talented and brought excellent energy. Levy’s skills are also best suited in these type of forums as compared to the booth, where he is also making up for lost reps as a career studio guy. He has the perfect personality for this venue.
Jonathan Vilma, who was on Field Pass, continues to look like an analyst on the rise. While pregame predictions by analysts should not be the measure of their impact, Vilma was all over it, saying Clemson would win and that the Dabo Swinney/Nick Saban all-time comparisons would begin.
The Coaches Room was replaced by the Monday Night Team (no BoogerMobile) at a table together with draft analyst Todd McShay. If you wanted X’s & O’s, they gave it to you, getting inside the game.
If ESPN keeps the trio — Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland — together, the biggest way they will improve is if the broadcast is more relaxed. That is why there will be a lot of the threesome on together during the offseason. It is not easy to “try” to be more chill, but that is one of the ingredients that would make the group better. There were times on Monday they connected, but there still needs to be more if MNF can ultimately work.
Rest In Peace: Ed Silverman, who covered Jackie Robinson’s debut from the stands at Ebbets Field, passed away at 94 this weekend. Silverman had a long and distinguished career as an ABC News radio and TV correspondent and producer. He began his career as a newspaperman, writing sports, and ended up in news.
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