The Wall Street Journal reports that the carriage-handicapped NFL Network is in talks with ESPN on a partnership which could essentially end the league’s efforts to run its own cable network. Rather than being the cash-cow anticipated by NFL owners, the NFL Network has been unable to gain widespread distribution because MSOs balked at the high fees demanded for the specialized sports net (reportedly around 70 cents per sub monthly). The NFL owners held back eight regular season games from bidding by other networks, but that tactic seemed to backfire when pressure from Capitol Hill forced the NFL Network to allow CBS and NBC to simulcast the Patriots-Giants game in which the New England Patriots finished an undefeated regular season (only to be beaten by the New York Giants in the Super bowl). One scenario suggested in the WSJ story would merge the NFL Network with ESPN Classic in a revenue-sharing joint venture. ESPN is 80% owned by Disney and 20% by Hearst Corporation.