ESPN has signed an eight-year extension with the National Football League to carry Monday Night Football though 2021.
ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the $15 billion agreement Thursday, saying that it includes expanded NFL studio programming, highlight rights for TV and ESPN.com, the Pro Bowl, the NFL Draft, 3-D rights and enhanced international rights. However, the deal still does not include playoff games or Super Bowls for the cable sports network.
The announcement came just hours before the kickoff of the new season between the last two Super Bowl winners.
Monday Night Football, which debuted on ABC in 1970, made the move to ESPN in 2006 as part of a pact that went through 2013. In the five seasons it's been on ESPN, it has become the most-watched series in cable TV history, registering eight of cable's 10 all-time biggest household audiences and 16 of the top 20 (excluding breaking news). Last year, MNF ranked eighth among all prime-time programs (broadcast or cable), averaging 14.7 million viewers.
"Today, we've secured cable's most valuable television franchise, along with an enhanced international package of year-round multimedia rights. It will help grow our business well into the next decade," Bodenheimer said.
"We are proud to extend our three-decade partnership with ESPN," said Goodell. "We have come a long way together since ESPN first televised the NFL Draft in 1980."
The long-term agreement also ensures that Monday Night Football will celebrate its 50th anniversary season on ESPN in 2020.