By JOE REEDY, AP News.
The NFL will nearly double its media revenue to more than $10 billion a season with new rights agreements announced Thursday, including a deal with Amazon Prime Video that gives the streaming service exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football” beginning in 2022.
The league took in $5.9 billion a year in its current contracts. It will get $113 billion over the 11 seasons of the new deals that begin in 2023, an increase of 80% over the previous such period, a person with direct knowledge of the contracts told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the money figures were not made public.
“This provides our fans with greater access. We want to provide our games on more platforms than ever before,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Amazon has partnered with the league to stream Thursday night games since 2017, but it will take over the entire package from Fox, which has had it since 2018 after CBS and NBC shared the package for two seasons. Amazon streamed a Week 16 Saturday game between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals last year that was seen by an estimated 11.2 total viewers and had an average minute audience of 4.8 million. That was a record for the largest audience to stream an NFL game.
“Over the last five years we have started the migration to streaming. This is another large step in this direction,” said New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, chairman of the league’s media committee. “Our fans want this option and understand streaming is the future. We have created a unique hybrid of viewing options and streaming. This should provide a smooth transition to the future of content distribution.”
Games will continue to air on CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN, while ABC will have a limited schedule of games as well as returning to the Super Bowl rotation (two games) for the first time since the 2005 season. ESPN’s deal was scheduled to end after 2021, while the others expired a year later, but ESPN will have a bridge deal for 2022.
With the exception of Amazon, the new deals will begin with the 2023 season and expire after the 2033 schedule. Games on Amazon will also be carried on over-the-air broadcast stations in the cities of the participating teams, which is also the case with games aired on ESPN and NFL Network.
Besides the two Super Bowls, ESPN and ABC will also gain the rights to flex games to “Monday Night Football,” a right only previously given to NBC when flex scheduling was introduced in 2006.
The contract also expands digital rights for the other networks as well. ESPN+ will air one of the London games and NBC’s “Peacock” platform will also have exclusive games.
With the hefty new contracts the 32 NFL teams and their players can look forward to increased salary caps throughout the decade. The cap decreased by nearly $16 million this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The broadcast partners also figure to get an extra game per season, likely beginning this year. NFL owners are getting ready to implement a 17-game regular season. Goodell said discussions about the new schedule will be conducted during the owners meetings later this month with an announcement expected within the next three weeks.
The media deals have wrapped up a hectic 12 months for the league, which included completing a new labor agreement and having no games cancelled in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
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