ESPN Finally Won't Have TV's Biggest Budget Anymore, Here's What Will

narco stacks of cash

(Image credit: Photo courtesy of Netflix)

With some of the most reliable programming choices in the world of television -- sports -- ESPN has long been comfortable shelling out more money than any other network out there in terms of getting things on the air. But for the first time in a while, ESPN will likely not have TV's biggest budget when 2018 rolls around. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it looks like streaming giant Netflix will take over the top spot when it comes to TV spending.

Few channels have even been able to dream about passing up ESPN on the budget scale, as the sports giant expectedly pays out exorbitant amounts of money for all the licensing fees needed to air the plethora of sporting events shown on a year basis. (And that's even without most of the NFL schedule.) Netflix, meanwhile, has largely only dipped into sports programming from a documentary standpoint, and its billions have gone mostly to scripted projects across all genres. And in 2018, the company is estimated to reach a financial threshold of $7-7.6 billion to be spend on programming, which is expected to overtake ESPN's financial plans, which will likely be lower than the $7.3 billion average its put up in the recent past.

While perhaps not the most expected changeover in 2018, it's one that doesn't need a whole lot of research to explain. Netflix's 2016 budget surpassed $6 billion, and CEO Reed Hastings has never shied from discussing the company's plans to continue spending increases, so a $7 billion+ budget in 2018 makes all the sense. Hell, Netflix spends more on making solely European series than some cable network spend on everything.

Hopefully, the company will be even more successful with the funding in the future, as Hastings has made it clear he's willing to take more chances with risky cancellation-ready programming if it means striking gold. According to, that budget is estimated to jump above $8 billion by the time the decade is over, so that's a whole lot of success, regardless of any failures along the way.

Meanwhile, ESPN has been facing arguably the longest string of setbacks in the channel's history. While the company can boast that its streaming side is taking off in a positive direction, there's no smoothing over the increasing loss of linear TV subscribers. And it's hard to keep brand loyalty alive when ESPN has been laying people off left and right, including some of the most trusted sports analysts on TV. (Which is to say nothing of the rumored behind-the-scenes problems.) The network did cut back on its budget, and it's not easy to assume that we'll see an uptick in ESPN's spending in the future without some major upswell in its fanbase.

Do you guys think that Netflix having 2018's biggest TV budget makes sense, or do you think ESPN or some other channel needs to step it up? Let us know in the comments, and while waiting to hear about both company's latest exploits, check out our 2017 Netflix calendar to see what's on the way, and our summer TV premiere schedule will show you everything that's coming to the small screen in the upcoming months.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.