The National Football League is on the verge of signing new rights deals with media partners that could see Amazon.com Inc. carry many games exclusively and TV networks pay as much as double their current rate, reports The Wall Street Journal citing people familiar with the matter.
New agreements could be in place as early as next week, the people said. The television deals for the league’s Sunday and Monday franchises with Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN are likely to run for as long as 11 years, they said.
ESPN’s deal would go into effect after the 2021-22 season while the Fox, CBS and NBC agreements would kick in after the 2022-23 season.
Amazon has become an aggressive bidder for sports rights here and abroad. The company already has a relationship with the NFL as it has held streaming rights for Thursday night football since 2017. Those games have also been televised by the league-owned NFL Network and most recently by the Fox network.
If completed, an Amazon deal wouldn’t take effect until after the 2022 season, when Fox’s current pact for Thursday night football expires. Fox is now paying $660 million a season for that package, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. If the Thursday games go to Amazon and there is no other video component beyond the local TV markets of the teams playing, that yearly fee Amazon pays could reach $1 billion, people with knowledge of the discussions said.
A deal with Amazon for most Thursday night games would solve a potential problem for the NFL. While Thursday games get strong ratings compared with any other programming, the high price tag was making it a tough sell with broadcasters who already carry NFL packages such as Fox, which analysts and industry insiders estimate loses $250 million a season. Prior to Fox’s deal, CBS and NBC shared Thursday games and their combined losses were more than $200 million, people familiar with those agreements have said.