NFL Keeps Wild Card Game On ESPN After Mulling Move To Fox
The NFL has decided to keep a Wild Card playoff game on ESPN for at least the '18 season after contemplating moving it to Fox. The game also will continue to be simulcast on ABC. The NFL holds an annual option to move ESPN’s only playoff game off the net, and when Fox picked up the rights to “TNF” in February, the league considered making the move. ESPN pays $100M for the rights to that one game. Under former President John Skipper, ESPN’s relationship with the NFL had deteriorated to the point where the league was ready to move the game, and several Fox execs expected it, as well. However, interim ESPN President George Bodenheimer and new President Jimmy Pitaro worked to repair that relationship almost immediately and made several concessions to show the league that a new, more NFL-friendly regime was in place. For example, they agreed to carry the NFL Draft’s third day on ABC and produce exclusive NFL Draft coverage on ESPN2 throughout the weekend. In a move that could be interpreted as an olive branch to ESPN, the NFL decided to keep the Wild Card game on the net. The league could opt to make the switch to Fox for the '19 season, however.