Plans to fork over $35 million for 'MNF' renewal

NEW YORK — TV stations affiliated with ABC are so hot to make sure the network renews its contract with the NFL for “Monday Night Football” that they’ve agreed to ramp up their annual payment to $35 million.

That payment helps ABC shoulder the $550 million a year in license fees the network ponies up to the NFL for the Monday night games. But the Alphabet has also publicly bemoaned the fact that, even with the help of the affiliates, it loses about $150 million a year on “MNF.”

ABC has begun talks with the NFL about renewing its current eight-year contract, which expires after the 2005 season. ABC’s affiliates would fork over the $35 million beginning in 2006.

News of the payment for the NFL games surfaced in the announcement by ABC Wednesday that it has secured the approval of its board of affiliates to renew the net’s agreement with affils as part of a new four-year contract.

In the give-and-take between ABC and affils, the network agreed it would at first lower the NFL payment from $34 million a year under the old contract to $31 million for the first two years of the new one. If ABC outbids other nets for a new “Monday Night Football” contract, the higher annual payment would kick in.

Agreement with affils also allows ABC to repurpose a contractually specified number of its shows on cable. For Soap Net, the cable network that repeats all of ABC’s daytime soap operas in primetime the same night, the affils harvest a cut of the channel’s subscriber fees in each of their markets.

Endorsed by the board of governors of the ABC affiliates, the agreement will go to each station for review starting this week.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more