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ESPN Pays Top Dollar for Football, but Audience Isn’t Buying - The New York Times

With ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” viewership still falling after the presidential election, I began to think about what it meant to be the network that pays, by far, the most for its N.F.L. rights.

ESPN gets a less-impactful schedule than NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

ESPN never gets a Super Bowl and only began to carry a single annual playoff game in 2015.

ESPN lacks the flex rights of NBC, which can swap a suboptimal matchup for one that is more promising on CBS or Fox, as it did Sunday. Instead of carrying its scheduled Jets-New England game, NBC took Denver-Kansas City from CBS.

For that lesser deal ESPN pays the N.F.L. $1.9 billion annually, nearly twice what any of its network rivals shells out. Yes, the contract includes the extremely valuable video and highlights rights that sustain the network’s numerous programs and platforms, as well as the draft and other goodies. But it hardly seems like a bargain.



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