New NFL TV deals will mean bigger bills for consumers


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Someone forgot to tell the National Football League that we’re in a down economy.

The NFL is working on new TV deals with broadcast networks Fox, CBS and NBC that will include a dramatic increase in the rights fees each network pays to carry games.

Currently, Fox pays an average of $725 million per season for its package of National Football Conference games, NBC shells out $650 million for its Sunday night prime-time games and CBS coughs up about $625 million for its American Football Conference rights. Each of those contracts expire at the end of the 2013 season.


The new contracts will likely run through 2021 and, before it’s over, all three networks will be shelling out more than $1 billion per season. ESPN’s new deal, signed in August, calls for it to pay an average of between $1.8 billion and $1.9 billion for the Monday Night Football franchise.

‘The price of poker is going up,’ said CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves at the UBS Media & Communications conference Tuesday in New York. However, he was quick to note that even a bad football game gets more viewers than most prime-time shows.

Still, at what point does the price tag become too much? In August, Art Modell, the former owner of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens said, ‘The NFL as a league should be very concerned about the costs of carrying their games getting almost obscene.’ He fears the league will face a backlash if it is seen as gouging the networks.

Those networks will ultimately turn to consumers to foot the bill. CBS, NBC and Fox have been aggressive about getting cable and satellite operators (now known as multichannel video program distributors) to pay them to carry their programming. At the same time, the networks are also trying to increase the money they get from their own affiliates in return for programming.

In other words, the NFL sticks it to the networks, who in turn stick it to the MVPDs and their affiliates, who in turn stick it to us.

Talk about unnecessary roughness.



How high can sports rights go?

ESPN cuts new NFL deal

-- Joe Flint