The National Football League cashed in on having the most powerful programming on television, signing new rights deals that will pay it billions of dollars over the next 11 seasons.
The deals mostly keep games where they’ve been the last few years. The biggest changes include The Walt Disney Co. adding two Super Bowls on ABC to its ESPN Monday Night Football deal and Amazon becoming the primary carrier of Thursday Night Football, with Fox dropping out of the package. The league obtained fee increases and will rake in more than $100 billion from the new deals, various outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported.
Sunday Night Football, TV's most-watched show, stays with Comcast’s NBCUniversal, and Fox and ViacomCBS’s CBS keep their Sunday games.
"We're proud to grow our partnerships with the most innovative media companies in the market," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Along with our recently completed labor agreement with the NFLPA, these distribution agreements bring an unprecedented era of stability to the League and will permit us to continue to grow and improve our game."
Streaming is a big part of the package. In addition to Amazon streaming Thursday games, ESPN will be able to put its games on ESPN Plus, including one exclusive game per season. Viacom CBS will have games on Paramount Plus, NBCU will have playoff games on Peacock and Fox will be able to stream the games it has rights to and has plans for NFL programming on Tubi.
For Amazon the number of regular-season games included in the Thursday Night Football package is increasing from 11 to 15, with all games airing on Prime Video as part of a Prime membership. Each game will also be broadcast in the participating teams’ home marketplaces.
“NFL games are the most watched live programming in the United States, and this unprecedented Thursday Night Football package gives tens of millions of new and existing Prime members exclusive access to must-watch live football on Prime Video,” said Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios. “NFL fans from across the country will enjoy a premium viewing experience with Thursday Night Football, as well as access to a broad selection of content including award-winning Amazon Originals available on Prime Video.”
Prime Video will deliver new pre-game, half-time, and post-game shows.
“Thursday Night Football will be our first-ever digital package and we are thrilled to exclusively partner with Amazon to bring our games to more fans on more platforms,” said Goodell. “NFL football drives passionate viewers and Amazon will enable us to continue to grow our fanbase in innovative and compelling ways.”
ESPN will get 35% more games as part of its deal, which runs 10 seasons starting in 2023. There will be more weeknight games when Monday Night Football features doubleheaders (separate games on ESPN and ABC). ESPN will also get some Saturday games. ESPN gets a better schedule and the chance to flex games to switch out of games with poor matchups.
The ESPN deal also gives the channel rights to highlights for its studio shows.
“When ESPN and the NFL work best together, the results are transformational for sports fans and the industry. Some of the most remarkable collaborative examples have occurred in the past 12 months and have demonstrated the extraordinary range of The Walt Disney Company that is fundamental to this agreement,” said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and Sports Content at The Walt Disney Co. “There are so many exciting new components, including Super Bowls and added playoff games, new end-of-season games with playoff implications, exclusive streaming games on ESPN Plus, scheduling flexibility and enhancements, and much more. It’s a wide-ranging agreement unlike any we’ve reached with the NFL, and we couldn’t be more energized about what the future holds.”
CBS Sports will be the home of Sunday AFC games through 2033, with all regular season games broadcast on the CBS Television Network and streamed live on Paramount Plus. Games will appear on both Paramount Plus’s $9.99 premium tier and its $4.99 ad-supported tier launching in June.
The CBS Television Network and Paramount Plus will present a full slate of playoff games each season, featuring the AFC Championship game, one divisional game and one wild card game. A second wild card playoff game will be added to the CBS Sports lineup during the 2024, 2029 and 2033 seasons.
“The NFL has been a cornerstone of CBS Sports programming for more than 60 years. We are extremely pleased to extend our long-standing partnership with the NFL for the next decade,” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports. “The NFL is the most valuable content in all of media, and we are excited that the deal allows for more Sunday afternoon games than ever before and we retain the NFL’s most-watched time slot. This wide-ranging deal includes significantly expanded rights, and we look forward to continued growth and to maximizing the enormous value of the NFL across all of our CBS Sports platforms.”
Fox's 11-year package extends its coverage of the National Football Conference on Sundays through 2033. The rights include direct to consumer opportunities, including opportunities to put NFL programming on Tubi.
“Today we extend our 27-year partnership with the NFL and solidify the foundation of our marquee sports portfolio beyond the end of the decade. In addition to maintaining our leading Sunday afternoon NFC package, we are pleased to broaden our deal to include new digital rights that provide us with the flexibility to deliver NFL on Fox to customers in expanded and innovative ways,” said Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch. “This long-term agreement ensures that we will continue to deliver the best in football coverage to our viewers while also strengthening and providing optionality to our business.”
Fox will create an NFL experience on Tubi consisting of premier VOD as well as condensed games throughout the NFL season. Also Fox Bet will receive authorized sportsbook operator status if, and when, the NFL approves sportsbook operators for its officially licensed intellectual property.
NBC Sports continues to air Sunday Night Football under its new 11-year extension. It will continue to have flexible scheduling, starting with week 5 of the schedule. NBC will remain home of the NFL Kickoff Game.
NBC’s Peacock will stream wild card and divisional playoff games each season.
“We are excited to expand upon our relationship with the NFL, which is the most powerful content in sports and entertainment,” said Pete Bevacqua, Chairman, NBC Sports Group. “Sunday Night Football has been television’s most-watched primetime show for a decade, and we look forward to continuing our best-in-class presentation of SNF, Super Bowls, and playoff games for many years to come, while also broadening our audience with Peacock becoming the live streaming home for all NBC NFL games.”
NBC Sports said the long-term agreement can be terminated on a one-time basis by the NFL after seven years.
“While media giants ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox spike the ball in the end zone, ACA Connects members are troubled because they know these deals will leave millions of consumers with the financial equivalent of a torn ACL," said ACA President Matt Polka of the new deal. "Broadcast networks and TV station owners like Sinclair, Nexstar, Tegna and Apollo Global Management will continue to leverage the broken retransmission consent rules to demand excessive fees from smaller cable operators, driving up the cost to watch what broadcasters like to call ‘free TV.’ In order to make up for their massive NFL obligations, broadcasters will hike their prices even higher — and, ironically, use blackouts of NFL games themselves in order to do so."
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.