Just hours before the 2011 NFL season kicks off, the ESPN and the NFL announced a new eight year extension for Monday Night Football that runs from 2014 to 2021 and most notably to us, includes a provision for 3D broadcast rights. The new deal covers items from new studio programming (beginning this season) to availability of games on the WatchESPN mobile app to the Pro Bowl we still won't watch. According to the LA Times, the pricetag for ESPN -- before it's passed on to the cable / satellite company and eventually ends up on your bill in a rate increase -- is around $1.9 billion per season, up from $1.1 billion previously. While this should help quell ideas that ESPN 3D might be axed after its removal from U-verse, the bad news is it could still be a ways off, as we're told 3D broadcasts are expected when the extension takes effect in 2014. Sadly, 3D early adopters are probably used to waiting, with unbundled retail availability of Avatar still pending for 2012, this is just one more item to add to your calendar.
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ESPN, NFL Reach Eight-Year Extension for Monday Night Football
Broad Studio, Multimedia and International Rights Included
Monday Night Football, the most successful series in sports media history, will remain on ESPN through the 2021 NFL season under a new eight-year agreement between ESPN and the National Football League, it was announced today by ESPN and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The broad multiplatform agreement, which begins in 2014, includes eight full seasons of MNF telecasts, expanded NFL studio programming (beginning this week), highlight rights for TV and ESPN.com, the Pro Bowl, the NFL Draft, 3D rights, and enhanced international rights.
The extensive package of NFL rights will fuel the continued growth of ESPN year-round, boosting its core television business while at the same time supporting the company's "best available screen" strategy with NFL programs on TV, online and on mobile devices via authentication and digital rights. Outside the U.S., ESPN will televise MNF and other regular season games, playoffs, and the Super Bowl in 30 million households in 144 countries and territories across five continents, including Brazil, the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Israel, Australia-New Zealand, and Continental Europe. The agreement also provides the NFL with an option to air a postseason Wild Card playoff game on ESPN should the NFL decide to do so.
An iconic series in the history of American television, Monday Night Football debuted in 1970. After a 36-year run on ABC, the series moved to ESPN in 2006 as part of a landmark eight-year agreement. During the past five seasons, ESPN's MNF has become the most-watched series in cable television history, registering eight of cable's 10 all-time biggest household audiences and 16 of the top 20 (excluding breaking news). In 2010, MNF ranked eighth among all primetime programs (broadcast or cable), averaging 10.5 million homes (14.7 million viewers), an unprecedented achievement for a cable television property. In addition, an estimated 140 million people viewed MNF and NFL studio programming on ESPN/ESPN2 over the course of the 2010 NFL season
Said Bodenheimer: "Today, we've secured cable's most valuable television franchise, along with an enhanced international package of year-round multimedia rights. It will help grow our business well into the next decade. No one has the breadth of worldwide media assets or the ability to monetize a property the way ESPN can, particularly with Monday Night Football and our complete NFL coverage."
"We are proud to extend our three-decade partnership with ESPN," said Commissioner Goodell. "We have come a long way together since ESPN first televised the NFL Draft in 1980. With this new agreement we are excited about the opportunity to take the NFL-ESPN partnership to innovative new heights in serving the most passionate fans in sports."
ESPN's significantly-enhanced NFL rights package for the extension will include:
Telecast rights to 17 Monday Night Football games per season for eight additional seasons (2014-2021).
Rights to more than 500 new hours of NFL-branded studio programming per year, starting this week. Popular programs such as ESPN's Emmy Award-winning Sunday NFL Countdown pre-game show (expands to three hours), NFL Live (expands to one hour year-round), Monday Night Countdown, NFL PrimeTime, and NFL Matchup will continue, and ESPN will create more NFL-branded studio programming, including NFL 32 and NFL Kickoff, both debuting this week. More on these programs (http://es.pn/oGUN9t);
Expanded highlight rights across ESPN's television and digital platforms;
NFL Draft, which ESPN has covered since 1980;
3D distribution rights;
Rights to simulcast network coverage of ESPN's MNF and NFL studio programs on tablet devices through ESPN's WatchESPN App;
Continued Spanish-language rights to MNF on ESPN Deportes;
International rights, including distribution of MNF on ESPN International networks in select markets in Brazil, the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Israel, Europe and Australia-New Zealand through 2021; regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl in select markets, totaling 30 million households in 144 countries and territories across five continents; and the ability to utilize NFL programming on all platforms as part of a linear stream of ESPN network programming.
The long-term agreement also ensures that Monday Night Football will celebrate its 50th anniversary season on ESPN in 2020.
ESPN first televised Sunday primetime NFL games in 1987, covering the second half of the regular season (eight games annually,1987-89; nine games, 1990-97), and expanding to a full slate of 18 games from 1998-2005. ESPN has carried a 17-game Monday Night Football schedule since 2006. ESPN is coming off a record-breaking season in 2010.
Monday Night Football averaged a 10.5 rating, and 10.5 million homes (14.7 million viewers). ESPN won the night vs. all networks, cable or broadcast, among men 18-34 and men 18-49 every week during the 2010 season and consistently competed against the broadcast networks in total viewers on Monday nights;
MNF ranked second among all regularly scheduled prime time programs in 2010 among men 18-34, men 18-49 and men 25-54. Among adults 18-49, MNF ranked fourth;
MNF games accounted for cable television's 16 biggest audiences among households, and the 12 biggest among total viewers, in 2010;
Sunday NFL Countdown averaged a 2.1 rating and 2,167,000 households (2,055,000 viewers) in 2010. The household impressions mark represents an eight percent increase from Countdown's 2005 season (1,997,000 household impressions), the final year of ESPN's previous NFL agreement;
Monday Night Countdown had its highest-rated and most-viewed season ever in 2010, averaging a 2.7 rating and 2,729,000 households (3,532,000 viewers). In 2005 (the final year of ESPN's previous NFL deal), Monday Night Countdown averaged 1,749,000 households for the season.
NFL Content on ESPN Digital Platforms:
ESPN averaged 42.2 million unique visitors on the site in fall 2010;
Sundays during the NFL season are the highest trafficked days of the year for ESPN.com
During the 2010 season, NFL content represented 39% of the page views generated on ESPN.com, highest of any sport.
The NFL fan spends over 50% more time with ESPN media than the average person;
ESPN.com NFL coverage on Sunday and Monday (including the home page, NFL section and Fantasy Football section) averaged 47.4 million visits and 271.4 million minutes of usage during the 2010 season, a year-to-year increase of 20% on visits and 20% on minutes.
NFL coverage (incl. NFL and Fantasy Football section) on the ESPN Mobile web site and ScoreCenter app in 2010 delivered 14.5 million visits and 101.4 million minutes each week, increases of 66% and 61%, respectively, versus the prior year.