The NFL achieved labor peace for the next decade after it ratified a new collective-bargaining agreement with players. Now with a deal reached, the NFL is reportedly moving forward with its plans to negotiate new media contracts and a deal could be reached before the year ends.
According to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, NFL executives held informal discussions with media executives this past week regarding the upcoming rights to broadcast games. Both sides are reportedly now expecting negotiations to begin in the coming months and deals could be finalized before the conclusion of 2020.
The NFL felt increasing pressure during CBA negotiations with players to get a deal done, so the league could move forward into negotiating new media contracts. If a CBA wasn’t reached and football was now at risk of a lockout in 2021, league executives feared it could hurt ratings and reduce their leverage in negotiating with networks. The NFL believes the upcoming election will impact rating, which happened in 2016, and wanted to make a deal while it still had the most leverage.
As part of the new CBA, the NFL Playoffs will expand to 14 teams for the upcoming season. ESPN reportedly pays $100 million for the rights to its wild-card playoff game, an indicator of the type of revenue the NFL will further receive by expanding the playoffs and as part of upcoming media deals.
Of course, there is additional pressure to complete a deal during the COVID-19 epidemic. While both sides are interested in negotiating new media contracts by the end of the year, it comes at a time when the stock market has crashed and millions of people will be without work due to states shutting down across the country.
While major networks will likely reach the biggest deals, the rise of streaming services could also come into play. Apple TV+ is emerging as a contender for NFL Sunday Ticket, while YouTube TV could also factor into future broadcasting rights for NFL games.
The NFL will have some time to negotiate new deals with television networks. The current contract with Disney Co. doesn’t expire until the conclusion of the 2021 season. Meanwhile, the league’s deals with FOX, CBS and NBC expire following the 2022 season. Given the uncertainty of the market and the long-term risks due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the NFL will likely still push to complete deals before the year ends.