The NFL announced on Thursday afternoon that it signed new media agreements with five companies to run from 2023 to 2033. While fans are already familiar with professional football offerings on CBS, NBC, Fox, and ESPN/ABC, a pure streaming deal with Amazon brings the online giant in as a new major partner. The regular season coverage of games will not markedly change going forward, but the division of the postseason pie gets a little complex. While Detroit Lions fans may not need to worry about the postseason too much in the near future, the big news there is that the networks will rotate coverage of the Super Bowl.
From Joe Reedy at the Associated Press, the deals are for much more money than the current media deals: “The league took in $5.9 billion a year in its current contracts. The total of $113 billion is an increase of 80% over the previous such period, a person with direct knowledge of the contracts told The Associated Press.” In light of the steep 2021 salary cap drop due to decreased revenues last year, this is a big deal.
ViacomCBS will continue to hold the rights to broadcast AFC games, and make the games it covers available on its own streaming services. According to Cody Benjamin at CBS Sports, these will be simulcasts rather than delayed replays for subscribers: “All games broadcast on CBS will be streamed live on Paramount+, ViacomCBS’ flagship streaming service, giving CBS Sports more Sunday afternoon game broadcasts and streams than ever before. CBS’ package includes continued rights for AFC coverage, which dates back to 1998, as well as an expanded schedule of NFC games. The package is highlighted by 10 CBS double-headers, including the NFL’s most-watched Sunday afternoon slot (4:25 p.m. ET) and the annual Thanksgiving Day game.” It was not specified if CBS is guaranteed a particular Thanksgiving Day game, as both the Lions and Cowboys usually host separate games on the holiday.
As noted by the AP’s Reedy, Fox Sports will still be the home of most regular Sunday slot NFC games, and the network chairs thought “it was important to retain those unique identities.” Under the new agreement, Fox gains some rights to stream its games on its ad-supported service Tubi TV, but this will not include the Thursday night games anymore. Per Reedy, this is where the Amazon gains are coming from: “Amazon has partnered with the league to stream 11 Thursday night games since 2017, but it will take over the entire package from Fox, which has had it since 2018.” Comcast will again host “Sunday Night Football” on NBC and will stream its games through its NBCUniversal Peacock service. A vague part of the statement by the league said Peacock will be allowed to stream “an exclusive feed” of some additional games, but no specifics were given.
An interesting note from ESPN is that the Disney deal continues to carry “Monday Night Football” on ESPN, but the bridge year contract for 2022 (since the current deal ends this year but the new major deal starts in 2023) adds a few bonus games to their broadcast slate: “For the upcoming 2021 season, ESPN will add two Saturday games with playoff implications in the final week of the season. For 2022, those games will continue, and there will be the Sunday morning international game on ESPN+ and one ESPN/ABC Monday Night Football doubleheader.” Also noted by the ESPN article is that the network will continue its annual coverage of the NFL Draft, the Pro Bowl, and NFL Primetime will return to the ESPN+ streaming service. The league’s announcement of the deals pointed out the new agreement permits Disney to simulcast any games on ABC and ESPN through ESPN+ streams, and “Monday Night Football” now gets some flex rights to move games around like “Sunday Night Football” had in the past.
NBC News’ Dylan Byers pointed out that the deals just announced were only for the normal broadcast coverage of the games, and did not cover out of market distribution rights for Sunday Ticket:
Sunday Ticket rights currently belong to AT&T’s DirecTV and will be up for renewal starting in 2023. An AT&T representative said the Ticket is exclusive to DirecTV subscribers and will not be available on AT&T’s HBO Max.
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has said in a previous interview with NBC News that Disney will talk to the NFL about acquiring rights for the Ticket when they’re up for renewal. Amazon will also look at those rights, a representative for that company said.
Given Amazon’s foothold in “Thursday Night Football” streams through Amazon Prime, this could be a big battle in two years. Sunday Ticket on Amazon Prime, ESPN+, HBO Max or even Peacock could be a tremendous subscriber draw.
Oh, and there’s this on the horizon, too:
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says that the league will work with the networks to incorporate legalized sports gambling into the TV deals.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 18, 2021
Now on to the rest of today’s Notes:
The #Bears can’t get a compensatory pick for Kyle Fuller. They weren’t able to trade him.
Ryan Pace just cut a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback in his prime and got nothing out of it. This is how bad NFL teams are run.
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) March 18, 2021
As Ryan Pace scrambles with the Bears’ roster, the locker room is distraught. The culture Ted Phillips touted is beginning to break, with key players on the way out and teammates “pissed.” https://t.co/t9WDAKmRXK
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) March 19, 2021
- Pro Football Focus released an updated list of their top 100 free agents still available as of Friday morning. Just-released Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller is fourth on the list. At the very tippy top is a wide receiver from the Detroit Lions.
- What in the world is going on with the wide receivers market in this year’s free agency? Why have so few of the big names been signed, and what’s up with the salaries? The Ringer’s Kaelen Jones talked to one of our favorites, Brad Spielberger from PFF, to break it down.
- Plans for the Lions’ home stadium to be used as a vaccination clinic are moving forward rapidly. On Thursday, Ford Field and team officials hosted the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and federal officials to discuss the progress made so far.
WDIV Local 4 posted a half-hour video recording of the event on its web site.