Report: ESPN Could Drop NFL

Two struggling brands may be headed for a divorce.  A new report in the Hollywood Reporter says ESPN is considering dropping Monday Night Football when its current contract with the NFL expires in 2021.  ESPN is paying nearly $2 billion a year for the rights to MNF, but the network has lost millions of subscribers in recent years due to cord-cutting, at a time when NFL ratings have fallen, resulting in a decline in advertising revenues.

Jeff McCall, media critic and professor at DePauw University, tells KTRH he isn't surprised that ESPN would consider dropping the NFL.  "The rights fees for the NFL are enormous, and ESPN is losing consumers very fast---they're losing viewers for their broadcasts, but they're also losing subscribers as people cut the cord," he says.  McCall also believes much of the decline in ratings is of ESPN's own doing.  "It does seem like ESPN is not just interested in sports anymore, but also social commentary and social engineering," he says.

As for the NFL's declining ratings, that can be attributed to the controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem, along with changing viewing habits among the younger generation.  "I have two young sons and they play football, and anytime football is on they don't watch it, all they do is watch highlights," says N.D. Kalu, former NFL player and co-host of In The Trenches on Sportstalk 790.  "They're watching whatever is streaming on their phone, on the tablets, or on the computers."

Still, Kalu believes ESPN has killed its golden goose by veering away from sports and into commentary on social issues.  "Like MTV, some people feel they made a mistake when they stopped showing music videos, now ESPN is trying to venture out of sports," he says.  "It's okay to just stick to sports."

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