Jimmy Pitaro, president of US sports media giant ESPN, expects competition from Silicon Valley when the National Football League’s (NFL) media rights contracts come up for renewal.
ESPN’s US$15.2 billion, eight-year agreement with the US football league for its Monday night games runs through 2021, the earliest of the major network NFL contracts. CBS, NBC and Fox have contracts which expire a year later.
There has been a lot of speculation about digital players coming for rights to what remains the biggest draw in the US live sports market.
DAZN, the multi-territory over-the-top (OTT) media company, has expressed an interest and the likes of Amazon and Google have reportedly been in talks with the NFL when it appeared that the out-of-market Sunday Ticket package could become available.
The NFL announced an expanded highlights deal with Facebook on Thursday, and is in the final year of its streaming contract with Amazon for its Thursday night games.
Now Pitaro, an executive tasked with ensuring his network retains a live NFL foothold, believes the digital players will be a factor in the next round of rights negotiations.
“I have no idea if they’re going to be interested specifically in ‘Monday Night Football’, but I do believe that several new media companies are going to be interested in acquiring more NFL rights,” Pitaro said on Thursday during a discussion at the Paley Center for Media.
Adding: “I still very much like ESPN’s hand, if you look at what we offer in terms of production expertise, in terms of the scale and scope, in terms of what we can do with the game, around the game, ‘SportsCenter’, all of our original programming, how we can drive value for our league partners I think is really the differentiator.
“We’re navigating through a very complicated world right now where new competitors are popping up every single day.
“When we sit down with the NFL, yes, we bring a cable channel, but we also bring a broadcast channel (ABC). We bring the power of the theme parks, for example. We just opened up an NBA experience in Orlando. How many of our competitors can bring the theme parks to the table?”