Disney, NFL in Talks That Could Give League ESPN Stake, Put NFL Media Under Disney

Rexa Vella

Disney, NFL in Talks That Could Give League ESPN Stake, Put NFL Media Under Disney

One of the greatest plays in sports isn’t taking place on any athletic field.

Walt Disney Co. and the National Football League are said to be in earnest talks, according to two people familiar with the matter, that could have the league take a stake in ESPN while putting its NFL Media unit, which the sports body has been trying to monetize in better fashion, under the media company’s control. Such a move would further align Disney with the NFL, making it difficult for the company to lose valuable sports rights to show top-rated football games, and could put such NFL assets as the NFL Network and Red Zone under Disney’s aegis.

Disney and the NFL declined to comment on the talks, which were reported previously by The New York Post and The Atlantic. Disney has been seeking partners for ESPN as it faces declines in one of its primary economic engines — affiliate revenue from cable distribution. Among the parties the media giant has turned to are sports leagues, which have a vested interest in ESPN’s success, as it broadcasts top games from multiple bodies.

Such a transaction is not guaranteed to reach fruition, and one of the people familiar with the talks suggested it would have to be approved by the NFL owners at a regularly scheduled meeting slated to take place in mid Spring.

More to come….

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