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THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE

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THE GAZ STATION • Sports by Gary Jordan

NFL Broadcast Deal

TV Deal Sees ESPN and Amazon as Big Players in Onscreen Football
Published on March 22, 2021

Football

The National Football League Free Agency period is well under way, and we will cover it here soon as the teams move to secure talent they already have, or add to their rosters and strengthen them to make a challenge for the new season later this year. Teams must be careful to do this under the salary cap that exists to keep parity across the league. Or at least try to – maybe parity will come when Tom Brady retires.

The way the cap is decided is threefold: Player revenue share and the protected benefits; the amount available for salaries with the number of teams factored in; and revenue calculations which makes up the lion's share. Revenue from the outside comes in a variety of forms, from standard ticket and merchandise sales to food and beverage deals. The largest amount is no doubt through the huge broadcasting rights that the networks scramble over when the new deals are to be brokered. This deal has just been done and once again the figures are massive and introduce a new player to the game on a more permanent basis.

Last week a new deal was set through to the end of the 2033 season. The usual networks keep their place as the main providers for Sunday afternoon coverage, CBS and Fox will have their anthems played before games as they keep their regular Sunday afternoon slots. Sunday nights will still have the NBC cameras, and ESPN keeps the Monday Night Football tradition. Throw into the mix ABC network who will be back on the Super Bowl circuit.

The games

The main difference is that of the Thursday Night game, with Amazon expanding its coverage with exclusive rights, although NFL Network will also be able to select some games, and local markets can tap in as well. The Amazon deal brings in fresh money.

The ESPN deal also picks up six more games as they announced three Monday Night doubleheaders and a Saturday double header on the last weekend of the season, as well as a Sunday morning game to be streamed on their Plus service. They can also for the first time "flex" games from Week 12, to ensure the more anticipated games get better exposure. They also get an extra playoff game, a Divisional Round game, to add to their usual Wild Card game.

The money

So, what are the numbers? Well overall in the next 11 years the League will gain an astronomical $113 billion. This amounts to an equal share of $321m per team every year. The annual average is up 80%, but a Forbes report suggest that the valuation of the franchises will not rise in the short term. It was reported that the Amazon deal effectively doubled the Fox amount of $660m that was in place for TNF, and will pay an estimated $1.3 billion, which equates to around $14.5bn over the length of the deal. This is of course a massive step up from Amazon's own investment where it was streaming games over Twitter in 2017, with an outlay of just $50m. The service was clearly well received and liked, so much so that they brought into the Fox share of games last year to show 11 of its games through its Amazon Prime service. In its own separate press release Amazon announced that new features would align themselves with the more regular broadcasters, such as pre-game, half-time, and post-game shows. Also, the Next Gen stats are now a fan favorite and will become more commonplace. Amazon have also secured rights to more in-game highlights and NFL programming, in what they hope will make them a real player in the broadcasting of the NFL.

"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, the SVP of Amazon Prime and Amazon Studios.

Super Bowl Rotation

With ABC back in the Super Bowl rotation for the first time in over 15 years, the schedule is set for the future of how the big game will be shown and its equality over the now four big networks.

  • CBS 2023, 2027, 2031
  • Fox 2024, 2028, 2032
  • NBC 2025, 2029, 2033
  • ESPN/ABC 2026/2030

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was of course buoyant over the new deals in place. He commented, "These new media deals will provide our fans even greater access to the games they love. We're proud to grow our partnerships with the most innovative media companies in the market. 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."

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