The National Football League on Wednesday renewed its media rights deals with all three legacy broadcast partners, signing pacts with NBC, CBS and Fox that could add up to as much as $3.2 billion per year.
Each deal runs through the end of the 2022 NFL season. The nine-year contracts guarantee an equal division of Super Bowl rights.
While financial terms were not disclosed, each network is said to have agreed to an average annual fee of at least $1 billion for the rights to carry NFL games. The increases are believed to be in line with the 73 percent premium ESPN agreed to when it renewed its Monday Night Football franchise for some $1.9 billion per year.
Per industry estimates, NBC will increase its annual fee from $603 million to $1.05 billion, while CBS will see its payment swell from $619.8 million per year to $1.08 billion. With a current annual rights fee of $720.3 million, Fox could pay as much as $1.15 billion per year for its NFC package.
“These agreements underscore the NFL’s unique commitment to broadcast television that no other sport has,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, by way of announcing the renewals. The league’s 32 owners on Wednesday voted to approve the contracts.
As was the case when ESPN re-upped in September, the three broadcast deals have been enhanced with a number of supplemental enticements. Beginning next season, NBC will add a Thanksgiving night game, bringing its total run of regular season broadcasts to 19.
In 2014, NBC will upgrade its playoffs package. Rather than a pair of wild card matchups, the Peacock will air a wild card game and a divisional playoff. Along with the upcoming Super Bowl XLVI, which will be broadcast Feb. 5 from Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, NBC has earned the rights to carry Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, Super Bowl LII (2018), and Super Bowl LV (2021).
NBC also will be granted increased use of NFL footage, opening the door to a Sunday pregame show that will air on NBC Sports Network beginning in 2014.
Among the perks that come with the new CBS deal are an expanded flex schedule that will allow CBS to lay claim to an undisclosed number of NFC games. In addition to Super Bowl XLVII, which is covered under the current agreement, CBS has been awarded the rights to Super Bowl L in 2016, Super Bowl LIII (2019), and Super Bowl LVI (2022).
CBS’ AFC package lines up swimmingly with its local station footprint. Seven of the Tiffany Network’s 14 O-&-Os are in AFC markets, including New York (Jets), San Francisco/Oakland (Raiders), Boston (Patriots), Miami (Dolphins), Denver (Broncos), Pittsburgh (Steelers), and Baltimore (Ravens).
Fox’s new agreement gives the network the rights to NFC wild card and divisional playoff games, as well as the NFC Championship Game. Its three Super Bowls are: LI in 2017, LIV (2020), and LVII (2023).
The three agreements include “TV Everywhere” rights, which enable the broadcasters to offer live games and NFL shoulder programming via tablets and other digital platforms. (Mobile is a separate issue, as Verizon Wireless owns the exclusive rights to live streaming via smartphone.)
While the Sunday schedule is now set through the 2022 campaign, the proposed early-season Thursday night package remains unsettled. After Turner Sports, Comcast/NBCUniversal, and News Corp.’s FX all showed interest in the eight-game slate, the league announced it would delay an auction until after it had hashed out its major TV contracts.
If the price of admission may give investors pause, there’s no question that the NFL is a must-have property. Speaking last week at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves sang the praises of the league, noting that “even a bad football game outrates most programming.”
NBC’s Sunday Night Football is the most watched program in prime time, averaging 20.2 million viewers and an 8.0 rating among the 18-49 demo through 12 games.