NFL Reportedly Mulling Ownership Stake in ESPN

Posted on: January 15, 2024, 09:53h. 

Last updated on: January 17, 2024, 04:20h.

The National Football League (NFL) is reportedly in advanced talks to acquire an ownership position in ESPN, the largest sports media conglomerate in the United States.

ESPN NFL ownership Disney
ESPN, which broadcasts Monday Night Football, could be expanding its business partnership with the NFL. Reports suggest the pro football league is considering buying an ownership position in the sports media empire controlled by Disney. (Image: ESPN)

The New York Post reported last week that the NFL is talking with Disney-owned ESPN about an equity stake in the sports media organization. Though neither side is commenting publicly on the rumors, sources close to the negotiations say the possible deal would result in ESPN assuming control of NFL Media.

NFL Media is the professional football league’s primary marketing and communications division. The company runs the NFL Network,, NFL RedZone, NFL Films, and NFL+.

Insiders say the NFL has been shopping its media division for years. The league has secured over $110 billion in media deals in recent years with ESPN, Amazon, CBS, Fox, NBC, and YouTube.

ESPN currently pays the NFL about $2.6 billion annually for approximately 25 games, most of which air on the cable network’s Monday Night Football prime time slot.

Oh, How Times Have Changed

The NFL was a leading opponent to New Jersey’s efforts to allow casinos in Atlantic City, horse racetracks, and online sportsbooks to take legal bets on professional and collegiate sports, including the NFL.

The U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018 ultimately ruled against the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NCAA in giving states the freedom to determine their laws on sports gambling. Before the landmark ruling, a federal law had limited single-game sports betting to Nevada.

The NFL, the other “Big Four” pro leagues, and the NCAA have since embraced sports betting after experiencing increased fan engagement, bigger television and streaming numbers, and overall interest in the sports they sanction. Sports betting has been credited for the increased broadcasting contracts the NFL has subsequently struck.

The NFL prohibits players, coaches, team personnel, officials, and league staff from betting on the NFL.


Last year, ESPN teamed with Penn Entertainment, the regional casino operator based in Pennsylvania. In August, the Hollywood casino operator announced it would pay ESPN $1.5 billion over 10 years to leverage the sports media brand into its new sportsbook entity.

Penn announced it was folding on Barstool Sports as part of the development, for which it paid more than $500 million beginning in 2020. Penn encountered a flurry of regulatory headaches because of Barstool founder Dave Portnoy’s flamboyant personality.

ESPN is reportedly developing a direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming service that it hopes to launch in 2025. By bypassing cable networks, ESPN seeks “strategic partners” to assist in its content and distribution.

The NFL Network would bring Sunday International Series and late-season Saturday games to the ESPN DTC service. The NFL Network additionally airs preseason contests.   

The NFL deal with ESPN won’t include the coveted Sunday Ticket, which was secured by Google’s YouTube TV in late 2022 for more than $2 billion a season.