NFL Nearing End of Television Contracts

Robert Musantry
Sports Business Editor

The National Football League currently has television contracts with four major networks, providing fans with weekly coverage of every game. However, that could be changing in the near future, as all of those contracts expire within the next two NFL seasons. These contracts, which partner the NFL with broadcast teams from ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, and NBC Sports. Combined, the league makes over $5 billion in revenue from these deals, as the television partners pay top dollar for the rights to broadcast such a popular sport. With the deals expiring and the league’s influence only increasing, that already large number will be growing very soon.

Each of the current broadcast deals represents a certain time slot of games. ESPN has the rights to the Monday Night Football game each week, and this deal is the most expensive at $1.9 billion each season. It also is the first to expire, as it runs out in 2021. On top of the Monday games, ESPN also broadcasts one playoff game, and the Pro Bowl as part of their contract.

Sunday Night Football, the most lucrative spot in television, could be headed to a new home as the contract expires (Photo Courtesy of WNKY)

Fox has two contracts with the league, standing at $1.1 billion per year for Sunday afternoon games in the National Conference and $650 million for the Thursday Night Football slot. CBS has the American Conference Sunday afternoon games at $1 billion a year, and Sunday Night Football costs NBC $950 million per season. All of these deals expire in 2022, so they are a year longer than the ESPN contract. However, it has been reported that the league’s owners want the full rights deals all signed in 2021, so that limits the amount of time the companies have to submit new bids. These three networks also rotate the coverage of the Super Bowl each year, something that could change with new contracts being signed.

ABC, which previously broadcast the Monday night games from 1970 all the way up to 2005, is reportedly entering the bidding wars again this time around. ABC stopped Monday night coverage when sister network ESPN took over the rights. Now, parent company Disney apparently wants to get both networks in the mix and is looking into having games cast simultaneously on both channels. The reason behind ABC entering back into the football market is that they trailed behind both CBS and NBC in the 2019 ratings. In that same time period, NFL games accounted for 41 of the top 50 most watched shows, so the league is not only a powerhouse in the sports television industry but also just network television as a whole. Sunday Night Football has reigned as the #1 most watched primetime show for nine years. So the league is a lucrative way to get viewers to tune into your channel, so it is hardly a wonder that the next contracts will net the league billions of dollars every season.


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