Monday, February 24, 2020

NFL TV Rights Up For Renewal

NFL owners and the NFL Players Association are likely nearing a collective bargaining agreement after owners approved the terms Thursday. Media companies and the NFL have been waiting for the CBA’s approval before negotiating new broadcast rights for NFL games, which are locked up until 2022.

CNBC reports the results will have a major impact on traditional media as millions of Americans cut the cord on pay-TV each year. Owning live football games is crucial for networks like ESPN to charge expensive affiliate fees to pay-TV distributors, and for Fox and CBS to remain viable against deeper-pocketed competitors like Disney and Comcast.

The NFL knows this, and is expected to jack up renewal rates on all of its major broadcast packages -- Thursday night, Sunday afternoon, Sunday night and Monday night, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to speak publicly because negotiations are private.

Rates on Sunday afternoon games may double, jumping from $1 billion annually to $2 billion annually. ESPN pays $2 billion annually for Monday Night Football and may need to pay $3 billion to keep the package, two of the people said. Renewals will likely be seven or eight-year deals, the people said.

While Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google may be the barbarians at the gate looking to disrupt traditional media, the NFL probably isn’t ready to sell exclusive rights to streamers, according to people familiar the matter. Instead, the current players -- Disney (which owns both ESPN and ABC), Comcast (which owns NBC), ViacomCBS (which owns CBS) and Fox -- will probably just pay the league a lot more money for what they already have. The NFL is comfortable with existing relationships and isn’t eager to rock the boat on a product that has seen ratings rise the last two years even as almost all other shows on traditional TV have fallen.

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