ESPN, whose parent company Walt Disney ( DIS) is under pressure from Wall Street for falling subscribers and its sports programming costs, won't enter the hotly contested bidding for the National Football League's Thursday night games, according to people with knowledge of the bidding process.
The NFL, which is expected to announce winning bidders as early as this week for an eight-week package of games, received proposals from CBS (CBS) and Twenty First Century Fox's (FOX) Fox network in bidding that is expected to exceed the $300 million per season that CBS paid to carry the evening's games the past two seasons.
The NFL asked bidders in December to submit offers for the entire package and an alternative arrangement in which two bidders would share the eight game slate, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said during a presentation to television critics on Jan. 12. The league-owned NFL Network would carry all 16 Thursday night games, some of them exclusively.
One figure being floated was $400 million for entire eight-game package, whether it is awarded to a single network or shared. The decision is expected by the Feb. 7 Super Bowl.
"Disney management made a fundamental mistake by overpaying for sports rights based on overly aggressive multichannel video subscriber projections," BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield wrote in a Dec. 18 report in which he downgraded Disney to a sell. "They also acquired too many sports rights in an effort to prevent new competitors such as Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports from growing stronger."