NFL Grabs $11.5B in Rights Blitz


Fox and CBS will ante up $8 billion to keep the National Football League on their networks through 2011. The early renewal comes as a something of a surprise.

The NFL unveiled another big re-signing on Monday, extending its Sunday Ticket out-of-market deal package with DirecTV through 2010 with a new $3.5 billion deal.

The exclusive deal means cable operators are shut out of the out-of-market package once again, missing out on a feature analysts have said could help drive cable penetration and video on demand.  

The league’s current TV package – which also includes deals with Disney’s ABC and ESPN – does not expire until after the 2005-06 season and negotiations weren’t expected in earnest until after the current season.

While CBS and Fox moved early to sign new six-year extensions, the NFL has not reupped ABC or ESPN yet. "As we've said, our intent is to retain the Monday and Sunday night packages, and we will continue our ongoing conversations towards that end," ABC/ESPN said in a statement.
As part of the new deal, CBS and Fox will carry two Super Bowls each.

“This happened quickly, ahead of where we thought it would happen, but [we're] thrilled with the deal we made,” said Viacom co-COO and co-President Leslie Moonves, who said negotiations have being going on for several months.

Moonves declined to say how much of the $8 billion rights CBS will shoulder, although he did note that his network’s American Football Conference package is less expensive than Fox’s National Football Conference deal.

Under the current deal, CBS pays about $500 million a year, 10% less than Fox’s fees. As part of a new agreement, CBS and Fox will eventually offer every game in high definition. The CBS deal also includes “a provision to discuss flexible scheduling,” CBS Sports President Sean McManus said.

DirecTV’s new deal also includes technological and programming enhancements. DirecTV will offer a premium package with interactive features and extra programming.  It will also offer all games in HD and by remote access on broadband and wireless devices.

The new deal includes two other interesting wrinkles. The NFL has the option to create a late-season, eight-game package to sell to cable or satellite programmers or distributors. The package would be carved out of the other broadcasters’ packages and DirecTV’s games. It could be used as a Thursday or Saturday night package for new buyers, say Comcast, NBC Universal, ESPN or TNT.

Also, to sweeten its Monday Night package, which has suffered from some weaker contests, the NFL retains rights to shift some strong Sunday games to Monday nights, particularly late in the season.