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NFL Feeds Streaming Platforms With Media Deals Valued at Over $100 Billion

18/03/2021 8:34pm

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By Joe Flint 

The National Football League said it has reached long-term pacts with media partners that will make Amazon.com Inc. the new home of Thursday Night Football and significantly expand broadcasters' rights to air games on their digital platforms.

Combined, the 11-year deals are valued at more than $100 billion, according to people familiar with the agreements. The league secured a combined average increase of 75% to 80% in fees from its media partners, one of the people said.

The major broadcast and cable TV packages are staying with the same networks. CBS and Fox, which carry Sunday afternoon games, and NBC, which airs "Sunday Night Football," will see their fees as much as double to the range of $2 billion per season, on average, people familiar with the situation said. The new Sunday deals kick in with the 2023 season.

Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN will pay an average annual fee of $2.7 billion to continue airing "Monday Night Football," up from its current deal of $2 billion, a person with knowledge of the agreement said.

As part of the deal, ESPN and its sister broadcast network, ABC, will join the other big networks in the Super Bowl rotation. In addition, ESPN is also getting two playoff games per season, up from one. ABC is also carrying three exclusive Monday Night Football games and two late-season Saturday games. The new terms with Disney networks kick in with the 2022 season.

The new contracts show the balance the league is trying to strike by embracing digital platforms, as younger audiences migrate to them, without alienating fans used to watching games on TV. Viewership of NFL games fell 7% in the 2020-2021 regular season, amid the pandemic.

Amazon's move to take over Thursday Night Football is scheduled to start with the 2023 season but it could start as early as the 2022 season. Fox currently has rights to the franchise through 2022, but there is a possibility that the network could exit the deal early, people close to the situation said. If that doesn't happen, Amazon's deal would begin in 2023.

The number of games Amazon will stream is still to be determined but is likely to be 15 games per season on its Prime Video service, a person familiar with the pact said. The games won't be available on television beyond the local markets of the two teams playing. Amazon had been simulcasting Thursday games along with the league-owned NFL Network and Fox for the past few seasons. Amazon is paying an average annual fee of around $1 billion, people with knowledge of that agreement said.

Amazon is betting that the addition of exclusive NFL games will drive people to sample its original content, a senior executive said.

In an interview, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the Amazon deal a "seminal moment" for both the league and the tech giant. Mr. Goodell compared the partnership to when the NFL agreed to let ESPN carry games in the 1980s, a move that helped put that network on the map.

Andrew Beaton contributed to this article.

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 18, 2021 16:19 ET (20:19 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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