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College football's Bowl Championship Series is the latest big-ticket sports property to jump to cable television, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says not to expect any NFL post-season contests to follow anytime soon.
Asked at a meeting in the league's Los Angeles offices if the NFL wants to keep its playoffs on broadcast television for the time being, Goodell was clear in the affirmative.
“The broader exposure is something that's of benefit to us, so I think the answer to that would be yes,” he said. “The NFL is the only league that continues to be successful on free television, and we're proud of that. I don't see any significant restructuring from that standpoint. We love the idea of being broadly available. The fact that all our [playoff] games are available on free television is something we are very proud of.”
Last week's deal to move the bulk of college football's major post-season contests to ESPN in 2011 is the latest sports land grab by a cable network, coming on the heels of the network's new deal to take over the entire British Open golf tournament. The NFL is the only major sports league not to have any playoff games on cable television, though most major-sports' championship games or rounds remain on broadcast.
Goodell says that as of now he would like to keep it that way in future deals—despite ESPN already paying $1.1 billion per year for the Monday Night Football franchise without a playoff game as part of the package, and apparently eager to continue to amass traditional “stick and ball” sports properties. “We have a great relationship with ESPN, but the majority of our telecasts are always on free television,” he says.
Fox/FX Partnership Considered
ESPN snared a four-year deal for the rights to the BCS college games by coughing up $495 million, or $123.75 million per year. The network got the opportunity when incumbent Fox decided to pass on meeting the $490 million figure requested by the BCS. Fox had offered $385 million, or $96.25 million per year.
While ESPN's dual revenue streams made the dollars work for the Disney sports behemoth, Fox parent company News Corp. also explored a cable play to try to justify the expenses for what amounts to four nights of football per year.
One possibility the company explored was putting the national title game on the Fox broadcast network and the other three BCS games on cable network FX. It also looked at putting all of the games on FX as well, before eventually deciding that the property no longer made economic sense.