Report: NFL Network, ESPN partnership?

June 20, 2008 5:16:41 PM PDT
The NFL Network and Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN are in talks about forming a partnership, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. A deal could end a long standoff between the league and cable carriers, some of whom said the NFL was asking them to pay too much for its programming.

The NFL's discussions with Disney are being led by Steven Bornstein, the head of the NFL's cable network who is also a previous chairman of ESPN and president of the ABC network, which is also owned by Disney, the Journal reported.

ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys declined to comment on the report but said the network has "a long-term and extensive relationship with the NFL and to that end we are always in discussions with them about mutual projects."

NFL Network spokesman Dennis Johnson also declined to say whether those specific talks were occurring, saying the company was "in talks with ESPN and our other broadcast partners all the time on a wide range of issues."

The NFL Network is carried on the satellite broadcaster DirecTV, but the network clashed with major cable providers like Time Warner Cable Inc., who said the league was demanding exorbitant carriage fees.

The NFL had tried to enhance the appeal of its own cable channel by withholding a number of live games from traditional broadcasts and reserving them for its own network.