Amidst Reports of More Layoffs, Could ESPN Also Lay Off ‘Monday Night Football’?

ESPN executives, facing increasing sports-rights costs and a declining subscriber base, are considering dumping “Monday Night Football,” according to James Andrew Miller, author of New York Times bestseller, “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.”

“With so much of ESPN’s universe asunder, it’s not outlandish now to entertain a previously unthinkable prospect,” Miller wrote in The Hollywood Reporter. “Might ESPN elect to go without rights to NFL games after the expiration of its eight-year deal for ‘Monday Night Football’ in 2021?!”

ESPN will undergo its third round of layoffs in two years in late November or early December, according to Sporting News. By 2018, ESPN will have laid off at least 440 journalists, broadcasters and cameramen.

As IJR previously reported, since 2011, when ESPN set a record of 100.13 million subscribers, the network has lost about 13 million subscriptions, and currently has a total of 87.22 million, according to Neilson’s latest numbers. ESPN pays a whopping $3.3 billion each year for the rights to the NFL and NBA packages.

ESPN’s current “Monday Night Football” deal, worth $15.2 billion, hasn’t turned out to be as lucrative as originally thought, according to Miller. Network executives thought they were getting the scheduled games they had previously received, always including one of the top games of the week. “But ‘Sunday Night Football’ got that pedigree,” wrote Miller. “And Fox and CBS games since then have also generally been more desirable than ESPN’s matchups.”

Throw in the advent of “Thursday Night Football,” and there are even fewer compelling matchups for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” lineup, which now only attracts 11 million viewers a week, 17 times a year — far lower than ratings in 2015. ESPN “hasn’t been shy about voicing dissatisfaction,” either, Miller continued.

For a network struggling to adapt to a changing media landscape — and with little concern about injecting politics into its coverage, which could alienate viewership — money not used purchasing the rights to “Monday Night Football” could be more beneficial than the continued coverage. Miller makes some prudent recommendations, outside of ESPN’s NFL and NBA coverage, that may win back some of its lost viewership.

“ESPN could go on a spending spree targeting CBS’ college football deal with the SEC, a Big 12 deal, baseball postseason, rights to NHL hockey, EPL soccer and a whole buffet table of other properties that would prove beneficial in its negotiations with distributors who would want to lower their sub fees,” he wrote.

Source: Conservative Daily