Super Bowl

MNF SOL?

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Will Disney axe Monday Night Football, thereby proving its direct link to Satan? Dunno, but something has got to give.

ABC loses buckets of money on MNF, which costs the network $550 million a year now and likely more in 2006 under a new contract with the Niffle.

Meanwhile, big cable companies like Time Warner and Comcast are sniffing around DirecTV's exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket package, looking for a piece of the action. Sunday Ticket is a huge selling point for DirecTV that cable operators would dearly love to blunt. Hit the NFL's price, and that might happen.

In sum, the next NFL TV contract could radically alter the over-the-air, premium cable, and pay-per-view mix. MNF PPV, anyone?

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  1. Let me be the first to empathetically and pre-emptively weep with all the NFL fans.

    Never mind they’ll be crocodile tears.

  2. No way the NFL will let Monday Night Football disappear. If they have to take a pay cut, they’ll take the cut.

  3. More info, although I’m confused as to why the networks fights over money losing programs?

    http://www.chicagosportsreview.com/nationalopinion/nationalopinionview.asp?c=119465

    Rumors began not too long ago, that Disney might considering moving Monday Night Football to ESPN in the new television contract. ABC continues to lose over $100 million a year televising Monday Night Football, despite the program continuing to be one of the highest-rated programs on network television. ABC is not the only network that continues to lose money by broadcasting NFL games. Both FOX and CBS continue to lose money each year, as well.

    The NFL is not the only sport in which stations lose money off of. NBC lost millions of dollars while broadcasting the NBA. That itself had a lot of influence as to why NBC decided not to retain the broadcasting rights. FOX has lost money from their broadcasting deal with Major League Baseball, and even today, ABC continues to lose money by broadcasting the NBA.

    The NHL was an even worse situation for ABC, which prompted them not to renew their television deal with the league. Asides from ESPN, the NHL will also air on NBC. What makes it interesting is, NBC is not paying the rights to televise the games. Instead, the NHL is paying NBC to broadcast the games. That’s a huge difference. How that formula is what the NHL has resorted to, do not expect that to ever happen with the NFL.

  4. The TV rights fees bubble in sports is well on its way to bursting.

    It’s already happened in Europe.

  5. Hallelujah. I f—–g hate TV sports. Here in NYC, what little original programming there is during the summer is routinely shoved aside in favor of baseball. I once argued with a friend about how could they afford to ditch top 20 programming like that, and he claimed baseball was a bigger moneymaker. Hah!

  6. Any time you have to pay huge rights fees, original programming will ALWAYS be cheaper. Witness the ESPNs and all their new EOP crap. It’s cheaper than even rebroadcasting NFL/MLB/NCAA/NHL(not so much anymore)/NBA games on tape delay.

    The XGames, the Poker, World’s Strongest Man, et. al. are all very, very heavily played, re-played and promoted because they are all produced by ESPN and are thus cheaper to air as filler.

  7. In theory, buying a big ticket item such as NFL, NBA, or Olympic games is supposed to allow the investing network a chance to sell itself. In practice, networks don’t have the slightest idea of which of their shows is, was, or will be hits. And if they aren’t hits right away, they get cancelled.

    It’s that classic left hand/right hand scenario, but in this case neither one can figure out who changed the channel.

  8. — Instead, the NHL is paying NBC to broadcast the games. That’s a huge difference.

    Indeed it is. For the 8 and a half years Major League Soccer has been around, it’s been paying Disney to air matches. As a consequence, ESPN/ABC doesn’t have to promote the match to increase eyeballs and sell commercial time. So they don’t.

    However, MLS’ marketing arm has managed to sell the product to just about comparable levels with the NHL, ratings-wise (on a tiny, tiny fraction of the budget and with no help from ESPN), to the point that ESPN has considered actually paying for it, even in these sketchy times.

  9. I don’t know how big a part of ABC’s ratings are accounted for by non-ABC owned affiliates, but ABC should be concerned about losing affiliates if they drop Monday Night Football.

    What success Fox has had isn’t just a product of the Simpsons and the X Files. When Fox out bid CBS for the NFC contract, a bunch of CBS affiliates jumped ship and went to Fox, much to CBS’ surprise. That’s because, even if the network isn’t making money on the game, the local station is doing just fine, thank you.

    Now MNF isn’t as big of a deal to a local broadcaster as not being able to broadcast your home town teams games anymore, but MNF is a ratings monster, and it would be really tempting for a local affiliate to go to a UPN if it means they’re going to get to trounce the competition every Monday night.

    P.S. No I don’t think MNF will go to cable…not even the NFL network.

  10. If and when the NFL moves its major programming from network to pay television, there will almost certainly be a round of political threats and extortion. “Consumer advocates” will seek an antitrust investigation, Congress will hold hearings, and various state attorneys general will file lawsuits. The worst case scenario? The NFL finds itself regulated as a quasi-utility. Given that the NFL is run by a former antitrust lawyer, I suspect the league will seek accomodation when the regulators come a’callin.

  11. I’ve never wanted to agree with joe more. Ever.

  12. How incompetent does ABC have to be that they lose money on the NFL? Are they betting the games? Honestly, what the hell ELSE is on on Monday?

  13. There’s one thing the NFL could do to save MNF, but I don’t think they would have the nerve. They have to allow the network to show marquee games late in the season. That would mean that only the first, oh, third of the season’s pairings would be announced before opening weekend. Matches later in the season would be selected based on who the hot teams are, and a selected game could be moved from Sunday to Monday on what would, under present rules, be considered extremely short notice.

    Unfortunately for couch potato gridiron junkies, that’s not gonna happen. Teams that suck will get shut out of MNF showings, except when they play a team that can clinch a playoff berth by beating them. Playing on Monday night is a huge draw for ticket-buying fans, too, so franchises that don’t consistently sell out want those dates. They want them in advance, also, so that they can promote the heck out of them, and so that local hoteliers, restauranteurs, tavern owners, etc. can plan ahead for the deluge of crazed fans tossing money at them. The most the NFL will do on short notice to accomodate TV is move a 1:00 p.m. EST Sunday start to 4:00 p.m. In some of the other sports some owners would donate a kidney to an Eisner family member if it meant that they would play before a national broadcast audience.

    CBS and FOX would not be too happy if their schedules would get cherry-picked to feed great games to ABC.

    The anti-trust argument has historical basis. One reason the NFL-AFL merger was allowed to go through is because league officials scoffed at any possibility of removing games from live, free TV.

    Kevin
    (Go, NY Giants!)

  14. Tell me, then, what source of revenue do the networks have that can possibly keep pace with the gigantic rights fees? Selling commercial time can only do so much, and now that ratings have slowly declined over time (due in large part to cable), ad space on a particular Monday night is comparatively cheaper. All this while, for the last several contracts, fees have increased a lot, to my knowledge.

    Trust me. This rights fee collapse has already happened in Europe where, believe it or not, most of their sports are run as much, much more market-based. The usual model of American sports leagues is positively communistic by comparison.

  15. The ‘losing money’ argument is as old as sports promotion. Everyone claims to lose money on sports, yet someone always wants to own the team, someone always wants to broadcast it. Businesses aren’t in business to lose money. If the NFL was such a money loser for ABC, they would have dropped it at the last contract. As noted in the article, it’s not like ABC has a lot else that’s gonna make them money in prime-time shows.

    Monday Night Football is nice. I like watching it. Mainly I like being assured that the game will actually be on, as opposed to the sunday games that get moved around, or not shown at all due to the NFL’s stupid idiotic rules about showing double-headers around home teams. What I really don’t understand is why they black out Sunday Ticket broadcasts. Seems to me that you’re paying for it, you should get to see it.

  16. Ratings have declined over time due in large part to the emergence of the internet as a competing medium and the proliferation of channels on cable, but the proliferation of channels on cable has also increased the demand for content, and Monday Night Football is prime content.

  17. More add space yields an increase in price of same?

    Ok….

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