Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'Monday Night Football' a winner for ESPN

Thanks to a couple of really big games from ageless quarterback Brett Favre, Walt Disney Co.'s sports cable channel ESPN had its best season ever carrying the NFL's "Monday Night Football" franchise.

ESPN, which shells out about $1.1 billion a year for its football package, said "Monday Night Football" was the most-watched show on cable television this fall. This is ESPN's fourth year of "Monday Night Football," and its current deal expires after the 2013 season. Among all the rights holders for the game, it holds the most expensive contract.

The strong ratings come just as programming costs are a major issue in the cable industry and will give ESPN some cover when cable-system operators gripe about how much they will be forced to pay to carry the channel. Time Warner Cable is embroiled in a big fight with News Corp. over the costs of carrying several channels, including Fox's local TV stations and FX.

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