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ESPN, NFL extend 'Monday Night' deal

Are you ready for some more football?

ESPN assumes that you are, and will provide it under a new deal with the NFL that will keep "Monday Night Football" on the network through 2021.

The centerpiece of the contract, announced Thursday, is the venerable Monday night package, ESPN's single most important programming jewel.

The network is expected to pay about $1.9 billion per season to carry those games when the new deal goes into effect in 2014, up from about $1.1 billion now.

But some elements of the contract kick in immediately, such as expanded highlights rights that will lead to 500 more hours of programming across 35 shows, some new and some existing.

For example, this week "NFL Live" will expand from 30 minutes to 60, and "NFL Countdown" from two hours to three.

ESPN also gained new digital rights, such as the ability to live stream Monday night games on iPads.

"This agreement will fuel ESPN on a year-round basis, because it touches all corners of our company," ESPN president George Bodenheimer said.

For all it is paying, ESPN is not promised playoff games. The NFL has an option to place a wild-card game on the network, but it would not happen before 2014.

ESPN also remains without a spot in the Super Bowl rotation.

Bodenheimer was adamant there will be no NFL-specific surcharge on subscriber fees ESPN charges to distributors -- already the highest in the business at more than $4 per month.

But rising rights fees for all sports inevitably are passed on to consumers through television bills, whether they are sports fans.

CBS, NBC and Fox have deals with the NFL through 2013, and all can expect to pay dearly to remain in business with the league.

New York Sports