CBS, Fox and NBC on board
Parlaying newly found labor peace and long-term broadcast appeal for its live product into a new level of riches, the NFL officially extended its TV rights deals with CBS, Fox and NBC through 2022.The new contracts, believed to have a combined value of more than $3 billion annually (Variety, Dec. 6), run for nine years beginning in 2014 — the longest agreements ever between the league and its broadcast partners. “These agreements underscore the NFL’s unique commitment to broadcast television that no other sport has,” league commissioner Roger Goodell said. “The agreements would not have been possible without our new 10-year labor agreement, and the players deserve great credit. Long-term labor peace is allowing the NFL to continue to grow, and the biggest beneficiaries are the players and fans.” Fox, which will stay with the National Football Conference package it has held since 1994, is paying a reported $1.1 billion on average annually, a 53% increase over its average 2006-13 payment. CBS, retaining the American Football Conference package that it acquired in 1998, is at $1 billion annually, a 61% bump. Fox Sports Media Group chairman David Hill blessed the expense, calling the NFL “the greatest television property in the world,” while CBS prexy and CEO Leslie Moonves professed no qualms about the huge financial outlay. “No other franchise delivers ratings the way an NFL game does,” Moonves said. “The league has proven time and again that it understands the importance of a healthy broadcast partner, and this historic new agreement strengthens that partnership. “In addition, the deal continues CBS’ ability to be profitable with the NFL throughout the coming decade and beyond.” NBC’s average annual payment jumps 58% to $950 million. “The long-term agreement announced today provides us with significant enhancements to our existing NFL package, ensures that we will continue our partnership with the NFL for many years, and adds tremendous value to the many assets of NBCUniversal,” said CEO Steve Burke. “We could not be more pleased.” Wells Fargo senior analyst Marci Ryvicker echoed positives for the networks, including the length of the agreements as one of them. “Getting the extension done early improves the networks’ position as it negotiates for retransmission and reverse compensation fees from pay-TV providers and affiliate groups respectively,” Ryvicker said. “Lastly, we expect that any increase in rights fees will be paid via incremental retransmission consent and reverse compensation revenues.” Earlier this fall, the NFL and ESPN reached an eight-year extension to keep “Monday Night Football” on ESPN through the 2021 season. Some changes will take effect before the new deals launch in 2014. As expected, one byproduct of the negotiations is that the NFL will be able to expand its Thursday night package of games on the NFL Network, to an as-yet-undetermined number. NBC will take over the Thanksgiving night game from NFL Network beginning next year, giving the Peacock 19 regular-season night games (including 17 Sundays and the season-opening Thursday). The deals also enable the expansion of an aspect of flexible scheduling that began quietly this season: the trading of games between CBS and Fox when there’s an imbalance between the two. On Dec. 4, CBS allowed Fox to televise a game between Denver at Minnesota. Specifics on expanded flex scheduling are still being hammered out. Beginning in 2014, NBC will exchange one of its two wild-card games for a divisional playoff game, the first step in a shuffling of playoff TV coverage that could include ESPN gaining a postseason game. NBC will also have the option to show regular-season games on Spanish-language net Telemundo. Additionally, NBC Sports Network (known as Versus until it changes its name Jan. 1) will launch a Sunday morning pregame show beginning in 2014. Under the extensions, the nine Super Bowls have been split evenly between CBS, NBC and Fox. Super Bowl L, coming in 2016, goes to CBS.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more