James Andrew Miller:
What might be the repercussions for ESPN if it decided not to seriously chase down another NFL rights package? There would be both bad and good news.
Bad: it would be forced to come up with provocative and meaningful alternatives to replace 17 weeks of lost NFL games. But the good news is the network would have some serious spending money it hasn't had in years. Take the $2 billion that it is now giving the NFL, subtract say $350 million for rights to highlights as described above, and another $250 million to send back to Burbank the way Henry Hill gave Paulie that “tribute” money after a big haul, and that still leaves a billion and a half dollars for ESPN to play the media rights version of Wheel of Fortune. While it’s true that nothing drives a sub fee like the NFL, ESPN could go on a spending spree targeting CBS’ college football deal with the SEC, a Big 12 deal, baseball post-season, rights to NHL hockey, EPL soccer and a whole buffet table of other properties that would prove beneficial in its negotiations with distributors who would want to lower their sub fees.
It's not as crazy as it sounds -- especially in light of the fact that with the new (proposed) Disney/Fox deal, Disney would not be getting Fox's NFL rights, and would instead be focused on regional sports networks...