Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, chairman of the NFL's broadcasting committee that is negotiating the league's television contracts, says he hopes to complete a deal with ABC and ESPN in the next month for the sport's Sunday night and Monday night packages.
The league is attempting to negotiate rights fees with the two Walt Disney Co.-owned networks for the prime-time packages. The NFL previously agreed to six-year contract extensions, through the 2011 season, with Fox and CBS for the Sunday afternoon packages. Those deals totaled about $8 billion, including approximately $4.3 billion for Fox for the NFC games and about $3.7 billion for CBS for the AFC package.
"I think we're moving forward on TV," Bowlen said in a telephone interview this week. "I'm hopeful we'll get something done in the next month or so with Disney."
Bowlen said he's optimistic that Disney will be ready to complete an agreement now that it has named Robert Iger to succeed Michael Eisner as chief executive officer, effective Sept. 30. It appears possible that the Monday night games could move from ABC to ESPN, but Bowlen said he doesn't know yet how likely that is. ABC could end up with the Sunday night package, currently held by ESPN, under that scenario.
"We haven't, in my mind, had enough discussions with Disney yet to know that," Bowlen said. "Now that Disney has leadership in place with Bob Iger, we'll see what they want to do. I'm hopeful we'll resolve something with them."
The current deal expires following the 2005 season. ABC has carried Monday night games for 35 years but reportedly has lost about $150 million per year during the current contract. The league also is shopping a package of Thursday night and Saturday night games to networks.
Labor Talks Continue
Bowlen said progress was made in negotiations with the NFL Players Association on an extension of the labor agreement during a meeting Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Players Association chief Gene Upshaw, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and several team owners -- including Bowlen, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Dan Rooney, the New England Patriots' Robert Kraft and the Carolina Panthers' Jerry Richardson -- were among the participants in the negotiating session. . . . Defensive end Marques Douglas, an unrestricted free agent, signed a three-year contract yesterday with the San Francisco 49ers. He had spent the past four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. . . . Restricted free agent safety Brian Russell will join the Browns after the Minnesota Vikings decided not to match Cleveland's offer. Russell, who started at safety the past two seasons, signed an offer sheet for a two-year contract with the Browns last week. He had 81 tackles and an interception last season.