NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Football League and ESPN have agreed to a deal that will keep "Monday Night Football" on the cable sports network through 2021, extending the current contract by eight years, the two sides said on Thursday.
Announced on the same day as the NFL is set to begin its 2011 season, the deal is worth $1.9 billion a year, or about $15.2 billion over the life of the contract, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. That is about 73 percent more than ESPN previously paid the NFL.
The deal will give ESPN 17 regular season NFL games along with rights to the Pro Bowl, NFL draft, 3D distribution and Spanish language and international broadcasts. ESPN will also get rights to more than 500 hours of NFL-branded studio programing.
ESPN, a division of Walt Disney Co., has carried a full 17-game "Monday Night Football" schedule since 2006. In that time, it has become one of the network's -- and cable television's -- most valuable franchises. Last season, "Monday Night Football" was the highest rated Monday program on cable and broadcast among young men.
The current deal, which paid the NFL about $1.1 billion a year, was due to expire in 2013.
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch)
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