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Report: NFL, ESPN in advanced talks for media deal

They say every good ending is both surprising and inevitable. Many will be surprised by the inevitable ending of the effort of NFL to unload NFL Media, along with the effort of Disney to transfer equity in ESPN to one or more of its sports league partners.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that the NFL and ESPN are in "advanced talks" that could result in the NFL taking an equity stake in ESPN, and that would give ESPN control of NFL Media.

Marchand reports that the talks have advanced to the point where team owners and the NFL Players Association have been informed about the talks. (Because the NFL and the NFLPA share revenues on a roughly 50-50 basis, the NFLPA needs to be involved in, and likely approve of, the deal.)

It could still take "months" to conclude the deal, per the report.

NFL Media encompasses NFL Network, NFL.com, Red Zone, NFL Films, and NFL+. The NFL has been trying for years to offload (or perhaps unload) the media operation onto a media partner.

The NFL could be only the first sports league to do a deal with ESPN. Last year, CNBC reported that ESPN had been talking to the NBA and MLB as well.

The move would obviously complicate any efforts by ESPN to engage in objective, impartial, and/or critical coverage of the NFL, its teams, and/or their owners. For more than 20 years, few have been troubled by the fact that the NFL directly owns and operates NFL Media, which treads lightly on certain subjects that could make those protected by Big Shield look bad.

ESPN is already a broadcast partner of the NFL, which creates certain expectations from the league. Once the NFL owns part of ESPN and ESPN runs NFL Network, the wall (to the extent a wall exists) would crumble.