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ESPN’s exclusive window for extending TV deal opens soon

As NFL owners prepare to convene on Tuesday in Chicago for a regularly-scheduled meeting, a source with knowledge of the agenda tells us that the owners will be discussing an upcoming negotiating window during which ESPN has the exclusive ability to renegotiate its Monday Night Football package.

The source was not aware of the length of the negotiating period. Typically, the duration is 30 or 60 days.

If ESPN and the NFL fail to strike a new deal before the window closes, the Monday night package becomes fair game for any other interested bidder. If a new deal is struck, it could be the first domino in a string of extensions with the other broadcast partners, including FOX, CBS, and NBC.

Some league observers believe that the next round of television-rights contracts also will include a full-season Thursday night package, which could generate far more revenue than the current partial-year slate of Thursday games televised on NFL Network.

ESPN acquired the Monday night rights as of 2006, at an annual rate in excess of $1 billion. The current television deals run through the 2013 season, with the exception of the DirecTV package, which expires after 2014.