This is shaping up to be a very good year for the NFL. After the season looked like it might be scuttled, league owners worked out a new labor agreement with their largest, best-paid employee group. The new collective bargaining agreement with players locked in a decade of labor peace, setting the stage for today's big news that the league is inches away from an extension on broadcasting deals with CBS, Fox and NBC worth an estimated $24 billion, according to a report today from the Sports Business Journal.
The league's current deal runs through 2013, and the extension would them in business with those networks until 2021. The new deal represents an increase of more than 60 percent in the league's television rights fees, and secures the NFL's place as the economic leader in American professional sports. The deal is expected to be finalized before the end of December.
Extending deals with those three networks lines up with the new deal the NFL reached with ESPN prior to the start of the season. Under the terms of that deal, ESPN will pay the NFL $1.9 billion per season, a total of $15.2 billion, through 2021 for broadcast rights for Monday Night Football.
In addition to these two deals, the NFL has hefty contracts with Direct TV (a $4 billion deal that runs through 2014), Sirius Satellite Radio and others that all together will net the league about $7 billion per year. SBJ also points out that the NFL is prepared to shop their Thursday night broadcast package.
Wired football fans will also be glad to hear that the new deal with networks includes online broadcasting, part of the TV Everywhere initiative that the broadcast industry is using to catch up to disruptive technologies, such as online streaming sites that currently exist outside the legal realm of broadcasting. According to the SBJ report, this will likely allow fans to watch games on tablet devices, such as the iPad. Both sides are still working on that part of the deal. Currently, fans can watch Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games through a deal with Verizon.
Owners could vote on the new deal at next week's NFL owners meeting in Dallas.