The Walt Disney Company, ESPN, and the National Football League have reached a long-term agreement that spans 10 years. It allows for more postseason games on ABC/ESPN including the joining of the Super Bowl Rotation. It also provides for exclusive ESPN+ content, more regular-season matchups including Monday Night Football, and more. The deal was announced today by Disney CEO Bob Chapek, Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content Jimmy Pitaro, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It begins in 2023.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a released statement, “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. We look forward to working with Disney as they use new platforms, including ESPN+, in innovative ways to reach even more NFL fans.”
Highlights of the deal include:
- More postseason games including Super Bowls (2026, 2030) on ABC/ESPN
- Additional playoff telecasts including Annual Division Round game (and continued existing Wild Card game)
- More exclusive national ESPN+ content including new live game right and NFL PrimeTime
- 35% more regular-season games including Monday Night Football including with flexible scheduling Week 12 and after.
- Enhanced schedule quality and flexibility
- Comprehensive highlights, NFL Draft, Pro Bowl, and more
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said, “This landmark agreement guarantees that ESPN’s passionate fan base will continue to have access to the best the NFL has to offer. 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+.”
What do you think about this long-term partnership between Disney and the NFL? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!
The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and National Football League Reach Landmark Long-Term Agreement
More Postseason Games: Super Bowls on ABC/ESPN and Additional Playoff Telecasts
More Exclusive National ESPN+ Content Including New Live Game Rights and NFL PrimeTime
35% More Regular-Season Matchups: Monday Night Football Featuring Three Weeks With Multiple Games, Plus Saturday Action
Enhanced Schedule Quality and Flexibility
Comprehensive Highlights, NFL Draft, Pro Bowl and More
10-year Agreement Begins in 2023
The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and the National Football League (NFL) have reached a wide-ranging, long-term agreement that will result in ABC/ESPN joining the Super Bowl rotation, additional playoff action, exclusive national ESPN+ matchups over the course of the agreement, significantly more regular-season contests including Monday Night Football, enhanced game quality, new schedule flexibility and more. The historic 10-year agreement, which begins with the 2023 season, was announced today by Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company, Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, and Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner. (Note: Updated information about ESPN’s plans for the interim 2021 and 2022 seasons is documented at the bottom of the release.)
Statement from Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company
“This landmark agreement guarantees that ESPN’s passionate fan base will continue to have access to the best the NFL has to offer. 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+.”
Statement from Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content
“When ESPN and the NFL work best together, the results are transformational for sports fans and the industry. Some of the most remarkable collaborative examples have occurred in the past 12 months and have demonstrated the extraordinary range of The Walt Disney Company that is fundamental to this agreement. There are so many exciting new components, including Super Bowls and added playoff games, new end-of-season games with playoff implications, exclusive streaming games on ESPN+, scheduling flexibility and enhancements, and much more. It’s a wide-ranging agreement unlike any we’ve reached with the NFL, and we couldn’t be more energized about what the future holds.”
Statement from Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner
“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. We look forward to working with Disney as they use new platforms, including ESPN+, in innovative ways to reach even more NFL fans.”
Super Bowls Accentuate Expanded Postseason Offerings
ABC/ESPN will carry two Super Bowls (2026, 2030 seasons) as part of a rotation between the NFL’s media partners, marking the first time that an ESPN-NFL agreement included such Super Bowl rights. ABC last televised the Super Bowl in February 2006 (2005 NFL season). Also, ESPN will present more playoff action, adding an annual divisional round game to its schedule, which will continue to include a wild-card matchup.
ESPN+ Exclusive National Live Game Rights Strengthen Impactful NFL Streaming Content
A highlight of ESPN’s increased regular-season package will be one annual exclusive national game on ESPN+, the industry-leading sports streaming service. The game will take place internationally and will be aired live in the Sunday morning ET window. Additionally, this agreement allows ESPN the opportunity to simulcast all ESPN/ABC game telecasts on ESPN+.
Also included is rights for the return of ESPN+ NFL PrimeTime, the iconic NFL highlights show, each week on the streaming platform. NFL PrimeTime is the most-watched, non-game ESPN+ original program. Since its 2018 launch, ESPN+ has showcased a wide variety of top quality NFL content, including the highly-acclaimed Peyton’s Places, and the upcoming multi-part Man in the Arena series focusing on Tom Brady’s Super Bowl journeys. ESPN+ has grown to 12.1 million subscribers.
Monday Night Football To Include Three Weeks With Multiple Monday Games; Saturday Action Also Coming
ESPN will increase its regular-season schedule by 35% — six more games per year (from 17 to 23). It will include an ESPN game on Monday nights (including three weeks with a separate game on ABC), a Saturday doubleheader the season’s final week and the Sunday morning game on ESPN+. Monday Night Football, which has been aired on ESPN in primetime since 2006, remains cable’s most-watched series.
The added two Saturday games will take place during the final week of the regular season and will showcase matchups with playoff implications. Both of those games will be simulcast on ABC and ESPN.
Increased Quality for Game Matchups Via Added Flexibility and Team Appearances
The agreement includes new elements that will enhance the caliber of the Monday Night Football slate. First, the schedule will be more flexible than in years past with the ability for the NFL to swap a more meaningful game into the Monday Night Football slot with 12 days’ notice from Week 12 on. Additionally, top teams will appear more often, as a result of the agreement which provides ESPN the ability to showcase any four teams at least twice, leading to even more compelling games.
Comprehensive Highlights Rights, NFL Draft, Pro Bowl, Studio Shows, MegaCasts, International and More
As part of the agreement, ESPN will supplement its game coverage with the most extensive NFL content at scale across every available platform. Fueled by comprehensive NFL highlights rights, ESPN will continue to offer and/or develop NFL-branded programming (e.g. – NFL Live), pre- and post-game shows, news, analysis and highlights studio shows, storytelling vehicles, digital and social content and much more. It also includes data rights (e.g. – NFL’s Next Gen stats).
In addition, ESPN has once again secured rights to the annual Pro Bowl. Other key elements include opportunities for alternate telecasts (e.g. – MegaCasts), extending and expanding ESPN’s international rights (including areas in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, India), ESPN Deportes and more.
ESPN has also obtained rights to NFL Drafts, an event that has been an ESPN fixture since 1980, as part of the agreement.
The rights in this new agreement provide flexibility to maximize current and potential future distribution of ESPN.
2021 and 2022 Seasons
The 2021 season will be the last in ESPN’s current arrangement with the NFL. ESPN and the NFL have reached a bridge agreement for 2022 – the year between when the previous agreement expires and the new 10-year extension begins. For both the 2021 and 2022 seasons, all the foundational components from the agreement expiring in 2021 will be included (e.g. – weekly Monday Night Football games), in addition to select elements from the new 10-year agreement. For example, in 2021, ESPN will be adding the two Saturday games with playoff implications on the last weekend of the regular-season. For the 2022 bridge year, ESPN will showcase the two Saturday games with playoff implications on the last weekend of the season, a Sunday morning ESPN+ game and one ABC Monday Night Football broadcast on a week there is also an ESPN Monday Night Football telecast.
ESPN and NFL
ESPN has been delivering distinctive NFL content since its first calendar year. A combination of live NFL games (since 1987) and groundbreaking studio programming have led the way. Today, ESPN’s platforms provide in-depth, year-round coverage of the league, from NFL game action to special events, to news, highlights, analysis and storytelling.