SBD/March 9, 2011/Media

NFL Labor Watch: Disney CFO Confident ESPN Could Weather Lockout

Rasulo says ESPN could
weather the loss of NFL
Walt Disney Co. CFO Jay Rasulo yesterday "expressed confidence" that ESPN could "weather the loss of games" should a possible NFL lockout extend into the fall, according to Dawn Chmielewski of the L.A. TIMES. Rasulo told the audience at Credit Suisse's Global Media & Communications Convergence Conference, "We're not that concerned." Rasulo noted that ESPN "has plenty of athletic events to substitute in place of the NFL games," and that automakers and other advertisers "would continue to gravitate to the network because of its audience." Chmielewski noted ESPN "does have a strong menu, but the NFL is its main course, and last season it generated incredibly strong ratings for the network." Without the games, it is "unlikely ESPN would be able to maintain the ratings average it achieved in 2010, and that could lead to lower advertising revenues." But Rasulo said that ESPN "would continue to pay its fees to the league even if there are no games." He added it is not clear yet "what happens to those fees if there is a lockout" (LATIMES.com, 3/8). Analysts indicated that Disney "sells an estimated $200 million in ads annually" for ESPN's "MNF" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 3/9).
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