NFL going forward with plans for another TV package
The National Football League is going ahead with plans to introduce a new Thursday night package of prime-time games that could start as early as the 2012 season.
Such a move had been expected, but as part of the league's push to extend the regular season of football games from 16 games to 18 games. That idea met with such resistance from NFL players that the league and its owners have tabled it for now.
The new eight-game package would be for the first half of the season. The NFL's own cable channel -- the NFL Network -- already has an eight-game schedule for the second half of the season. Besides the NFL Network, other potential bidders could include Comcast, which owns the sports channel Versus, or Turner Broadcasting, which owns TNT and other channels that could carry games. News of the NFL's renewed interest in landing a new television partner was first reported by Sports Business Journal.
While the NFL is coming off a tremendous season in terms of television ratings, adding another package risks overexposing the sport and devaluing its own brand.
For the NFL, the motivation of a new package is money. Currently, the league gets over $4.5 billion in annual rights fees from Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN, DirecTV and the NFL Network. Another prime-time deal could be worth north of $500 million.
However, the current rights holders will likely want some sort of concession from the league for their next contracts. The addition of more evening contests has the potential to dilute the value of the other deals. Whoever acquires the new package will want big games, which means the incumbents would lose some marquee matches.
The odds that the NFL will lower its rights fees to Fox, CBS and the others are about as good as the Washington Redskins making the Super Bowl next season. There are other ways the league can compensate the veteran rights holders including allowing the networks to increase the commercial loads in the games. In other words, not only will your cable bill go up if there is a new package, but you'll watch more commercials on the other networks with games.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Credit: Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press.