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ACA’s CEO Polka Says ESPN's New NFL Deal Hurts All Pay-TV Consumers

ESPN has agreed to pay the National Football League about $15.2 billion starting in 2014 to retain the rights to "Monday Night Football" through the 2021 season.  At $1.9 billion a year, ESPN is paying 73 percent more than the $1.1 billion a year it currently spends to air regular season NFL games on Monday nights.

"ESPN has struck a bad bargain for consumers," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "The sports network's financially wanton deal will push the cost of pay-TV service into the stratosphere, making the product less and less affordable during a time of severe economic stress and high unemployment."

According to published reports, ESPN executives said the eight-year length of the contract was advantageous to the sports network because it will coincide with the renegotiation of all of its carriage deals with cable and satellite operators as well as telephone companies.

ACA members are bracing for yet another round of big ESPN license fee increases to cover the network's liabilities to the NFL. All cable TV subscribers will be affected because ESPN will not allow cable operators to create a separately purchased sports tier that would help shield non-sports fans from large sports programming costs.

"Consumers need to understand that programmers like ESPN are responsible for the rising cost of cable and satellite TV," Polka explained. "ESPN protects its ability to engage in reckless deal making by forcing pay-TV providers to carry the channel on the most basic programming tier that all subscribers must purchase, which means that consumers with no interest in sports are required to subsidize the sports fan. "

Polka declared the pay-TV business model broken because ESPN, the most expensive basic channel on cable and satellite, stubbornly refuses to give consumers the ability to opt out of costly programming they don't care to watch.

"Loyal pay-TV customers should resent ESPN's high-handed and inflexible business strategy," Polka said.

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