If you've ever taken a look at ESPN+ and wondered "Why aren't there actual NFL games on this otherwise incredible streaming service for live sports," you're not alone. But that's finally going to change in 2022. A little.
The Walt Disney Company — which includes ESPN, ESPN+ and ABC — has signed a new long-term deal with the NFL that will finally bring an NFL game to ESPN+. It's just a single game a year, and it doesn't start until 2022. And it will be one of the games played outside the United States. But it's better than nothing. (The agreement also lets ABC and ESPN simulcast the game.)
Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. But suffice to say it was not cheap.
The bigger news, perhaps, is that ABC and ESPN will broadcast two Super Bowl games — for the 2026 and 2030 seasons. It'll be the first time ESPN has been worked into the rotation. (ABC had Super Bowl XL in February 2006, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals.)
“We are thrilled to extend and expand our partnership with Disney far into the future, as ESPN will continue to host cable’s most-watched series, Monday Night Football, and ABC is returning as a Super Bowl broadcaster," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a press release. We look forward to working with Disney as they use new platforms, including ESPN+, in innovative ways to reach even more NFL fans.”
ESPN+ also retains the rights for NFL PrimeTIme, which is the most-watched original ESPN+ program that isn't a game.
“This landmark agreement guarantees that ESPN’s passionate fan base will continue to have access to the best the NFL has to offer," Disney CEO Bob Chapek said. Bringing all the considerable and unique capabilities of The Walt Disney Company and ESPN to the table opens up so many opportunities across our industry-leading direct-to-consumer, broadcast, cable, linear, social and digital outlets. Special thanks to Roger Goodell and the NFL owners for continuing to embrace new ways to appeal to their fans, especially through increasingly important platforms like ESPN+.”
ESPN also will get six more games each season. In addition to the 17 Monday night games, it'll see a Saturday doubleheader in the final week of the regular season, the Sunday morning game on ESPN+, and three weeks with a separate Monday game on ABC.
And ESPN keeps the rights for the NFL Draft and Pro Bowl.
ESPN+ costs $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year and is available on every major streaming service. An even better value, though, is the Disney Bundle, which includes ESPN+, Hulu and Disney+ for just $12.99 a month. (That price goes up to $13.99 a month starting March 26, 2021.)
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