The National Football League (NFL) is in a league of its own when it comes to selling the media rights to its games. The league on Thursday just completed with four major media outlets for a total of $110 billion over the course of 11 years for the rights to NFL games. The new contract becomes effective in 2023 and runs through the 2033 season.
While the buyers of those rights are going to have to pay all those pretty pennies, football fans get to pay more too.
ViacomCBS Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAC) headlined its announcement of the 10-year deal with the term “multiplatform rights” and said that all games in its deal would be broadcast on the CBS TV network and streamed live on Paramount+. The catch, for fans, is that Paramount+ costs $9.99 a month (an ad-supported $4.99 version is coming in June).
Pay-TV subscribers who were once able to stream CBS All Access for free will get the privilege of paying to stream NFL games, in addition to paying for their cable or satellite subscriptions, because 80 million U.S. households still subscribe to pay TV.
Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) is paying an estimated $2.7 billion annually for ESPN’s rights to broadcast Monday night games, while Disney-owned ABC gets two Super Bowl games in the contract period.
ESPN will exclusively stream just one game each season, as will Comcast Corp.’s (NASDAQ: CMCSA) NBC network. Fox Corp. (NASDAQ: FOXA) and CBS will not exclusively stream any games. CBS gets three Super Bowls, as do both Fox and NBC. CBS, Fox and NBC are reportedly paying about $2 billion annually for NFL media rights.
Only Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) bought exclusive rights to stream Thursday night games on Prime Video without simultaneously broadcasting the game on TV. Amazon is paying an estimated $1 billion annually for its streaming rights. According to the New York Times, that’s the largest sum any tech company has ever paid to show sports programming.
Right now, the primary reason to subscribe to a traditional pay-TV service is to watch live sports and special events like award shows. Last year, 76 of the 100 most-watched TV shows were NFL games. The league is poised to milk that cash cow for as long as possible. Hans Schroeder, the NFL’s chief operating officer said, “While digital is growing, the traditional TV ecosystem is still incredibly rich, incredibly deep, incredibly broad.” In other words, the NFL is propping up the pay-TV providers, at least in the medium term.
How streaming may complement or even replace linear TV over the next dozen years is anyone’s guess. What if Netflix or Google decides to enter the bidding for exclusive streaming rights to NFL games? Would Netflix subscribers pay an additional amount monthly for a Netflix-NFL streaming-only package?