ESPN Balks at NFL’s Huge Asking Price for 'MNF' But Has No Leverage: TRAINA THOUGHTS

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1. Late Friday afternoon, CNBC dropped a pretty significant sports media story: The NFL is asking for a 100% rights fee increase from its television partners. That demand is not sitting well with ESPN.

Yes, the NFL wants each network to pay double the price it's been paying to air games. And it appears most broadcasters will cough up the extra cash. On a recent episode of the SI Media Podcast, Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand told me he expects the new NFL television deals to mostly remain the same, with CBS keeping the AFC, Fox keeping the NFC, NBC keeping Sunday Night Football and ESPN keeping Monday Night Football. The only expected change, according to Ourand, is Thursday Night Football will no longer be aired on Fox—instead being exclusive to Amazon Prime and NFL Network.

Could the league’s price demands, though, put Monday Night Football in play for another network?

Not likely, says James Andrew Miller, the man who wrote the book on ESPN and knows all about the inner workings of the World Wide Leader.

The issue for ESPN is scheduling as much as money. Monday Night Football hasn’t had must-see games week in and week out in years. Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football and whatever the main Fox or CBS game is Sundays at 4:25 p.m. ET always got priority over MNF, despite ESPN paying $1.9 billion per season.

According to Miller, Disney expected things to change this time around when negotiating a new deal. But they didn’t. And now ESPN has no leverage.

“If you made it clear you're not willing to walk away, where is the leverage?” asked Miller. “Going into this round of negotiations, the big move that ESPN wanted was to get reparations for the last deal where they grossly overpaid and it doesn’t look like that's going to happen."

As long as Thursday Night Football exists, it makes it very difficult to buy Monday Night Football and feel confident you're going to get a great schedule, even if there is flex at the end of the season. I don't know how they're going to come up with all these great matchups to justify the increase.

The NFL can charge a little bit more to the others, but at the end of the day, ESPN will wind up paying more per game than others. They thought the NFL was going to make up the last contract to them. Ha!

Is there any chance Disney/ESPN won’t pay the crazy sum of money to air Monday Night Football?

“In the end, ESPN will keep MNF, pay more than they wanted to and they won't have the security of better matchups than they'd hope for,” said Miller.

He also reiterated what Ourand said on the SI Media Podcast.

“I do think the next contract from a network/scheduling perspective will be similar to what we have. There won't be much movement.”

And that goes back to ESPN not having any leverage during these negotiations. If all the other networks are willing to cough up a 100% rights fee increase, that leaves ESPN with Monday Night Football or nothing. And, as long as the NFL is king, nothing isn’t an option.

2. In addition to knowing all things about ESPN, Miller is also an HBO expert. He has written a new book about the cable outlet that comes out this fall. Miller told me Curb Your Enthusiasm has shot some episodes of its upcoming season. I have to believe this means the chances of Larry David addressing the pandemic on the show are pretty, pretty good.

3. No, Tom. You won't. And that's a good thing.

4. Pelicans guard JJ Redick had an eventful ejection Sunday after he rolled the ball to a ref.

The official league office Twitter account had to delete a tweet after Redick called them out for spelling his name wrong.

And apparently, Redick's ejection has caused havoc for Astros outfielder Josh Reddick. 

5. If this story were about an NFL or NBA player, it would be talked about nonstop today.

6. If you're into the current trading cards craze, or if you just want to get educated on the trading cards boom, you will enjoy the latest SI Media Podcast that features an interview with Darren Rovell.

The main focus of the episode is the explosion in the trading cards business. From why the boom happened and whether it will last to the process of getting cards graded and selling them for profit, Rovell goes in-depth on explaining many of the aspects of this phenomenon. He also explains that people are buying and selling more than cards. Game tickets, VCR tapes and checks are also in high demand. In addition to discussing the trading card world we also talk about the Super Bowl streaker who claims he won $375,000 on a $50,000 bet and the possibility of Twitter adding a pay service.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify and Stitcher.

You can also watch the SI Media Podcast on YouTube.

7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: I ended up in a Siskel and Ebert YouTube rabbit hole over the weekend and their outtake videos are so entertaining.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on AppleSpotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.