- The National Football League (NFL) is seeking a 100% price increase for TV broadcast rights.
- Negotiations are underway with NBC, CBS, Fox and Disney (owners of ESPN and ABC).
- Disney has already rejected the NFL’s 100% increase request.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for sports league and team revenue. Not even the biggest organizations have been immune to the drop in proceeds caused by the inability to allow fans to attend games. That is evident in the latest ‘opening position’ offered by the NFL as they look to reach new broadcast rights deals. A number of media sources are reporting that the NFL is asking *double* what they’ve charged in the past for the right to broadcast games.
Negotiations are underway with NBC, CBS, Fox and Disney (owners of ESPN and ABC) and the NFL hopes to complete a deal done by March 17. Whether or not that’s a possibility remains to be seen. Disney has already rejected the league’s 100% increase proposal suggesting that they already pay a premium for the Monday Night Football package. The network pays $1.9 billion annually for Monday Night Football in a deal that runs through 2021. The average cost for every other network is just $1.1 billion.
Negotiations are private but Disney CEO Bob Chapek made clear his company’s position with comments in a recent earnings call:
“We’re looking at the long-term trends of sports viewership. We’ve had a long relationship with the NFL. If there’s a deal that will be accretive to shareholder value, we will certainly entertain that and look at that. But our first filter will be to say whether it makes sense for shareholder value going forward.”
NFL games have for years been a dominant force in television ratings. For example, the top five TV broadcasts of 2020 in the United States were all NFL games. The future of NFL programming is unclear and the most alarming metric is the way Super Bowl ratings have plummeted in the past ten years among viewers under the age of 50. There are just so many choices for video entertainment now that an event that was once essentially ‘mandatory viewing’ like the Super Bowl no longer holds the same attraction.
Media analysts think that NBC, CBS and Fox will be more likely to bite at the 100% rate increase than Disney. Disney is playing hardball in other areas asking for more flexibility in terms of streaming rights among other concessions.