Last year, it was revealed that Disney was looking for strategic partners for ESPN, which included talking with communication companies, along with sports leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL. Disney currently owns 80% of ESPN, and Hearst owns 20%.

Back in January, it was revealed that the NFL and ESPN were in “advanced talks” that would give the NFL an equity stake in ESPN, which would get control of NFL Media, which includes the NFL Network.

According to CNBC, ESPN and the NFL are now in the final stages of talks, and a deal could be announced soon, with an industry insider saying that an agreement is “all but signed”.

Recently, the NFL Network has been making some changes including moving “Good Morning America” from a set in New York to Los Angeles, laying off some talent by not resigning contracts and cancelling shows like “NFL Total Access”. Which is likely part of the process of reducing costs ahead of a potential deal.

ESPN is looking to ramp up its sports programming to fit within a streaming world. It plans to launch a new joint streaming sports service with FOX and Warner Brothers Discovery later this year, which would offer the three companies linear channels on one streaming service. This new platform would also be available bundled with Disney+ and Max. Disney is also planning on launching a new full-streaming version of ESPN in August 2025, which would also be available within Disney+, similar to how Hulu On Disney+ works at the moment.

Next month, Disney is also merging Star+ into Disney+ in Latin America, which will result in a new ESPN hub being added within Disney+ across the region. Recently, it was announced that Disney+ would soon start offering some live sports in select European countries, highlighting a shift in combining its sports programming with its general entertainment.

With many other streaming services now incorporating live sports into their streaming service, Disney is looking to do the same with ESPN, and this new deal with the NFL would give them access to its library and content. The existing deals in place, such as Thursday Night Football on Amazon, etc., would remain as they are.

One thing that Disney will need to address should the NFL become a partial owner of ESPN is whether there will be a conflict of interest regarding news coverage, especially if there are stories that make the NFL look bad.

Roger’s POV:  With Disney looking for partners to help it boost ESPN, teaming with the biggest sports league in the United States makes sense and will mean that ESPN will be able to provide the best coverage of the NFL and, more importantly, likely keep many people subscribed to ESPN moving forward.  It will be interesting to see how this works out internationally the NFL Network is still locked in a ten-year deal with DAZN, so it’s unlikely to impact Disney+ globally for a while, but for the launch of ESPN on Disney+ in 2025, this deal will no doubt help increase and maintain subscribers.

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Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Twitter: Facebook:

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