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The National Football League agreed to nine-year extensions of Sunday programming deals with CBS Corp. (CBS), News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox and Comcast Corp.'s (CMCSA) NBC, ending months of negotiations over pricey sports content that draws some of television's biggest audiences.
Financial terms were not disclosed, although reports have suggested that each network was paying about $1 billion a year.
The agreements, which begin after the 2013 season, lock in the networks' access to high-profile sports programming through 2022. Such content may help them attract advertisers and gain leverage in subsequent negotiations with cable and satellite TV distributors that carry the channels.
"These agreements underscore the NFL's unique commitment to broadcast television that no other sport has," league Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Wednesday. The league noted that games shown on ESPN and the NFL Network are required to be carried on broadcast networks in the cities of the participating teams.
The deal follows ESPN agreeing to an eight-year extension of its contract to carry NFL games. The cable channel, owned by Walt Disney Co. (DIS), agreed to pay an average of $1.9 billion per season over the life of the deal, up from an average of $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion under its previous agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the terms.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the NFL was discussing a similar price increase with Fox, NBC and CBS.
News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey had said carrying the NFL is a "double-edged sword" for network owners because it draws such large audiences but incurs ever-increasing costs.
But this fall, 23 of the 25 most-watched programs on the airwaves were NFL games, according to the NFL statement Wednesday. The matchups draw more than twice as many viewers as an average primetime show, the league said.
CBS, Fox and NBC will each televise three Super Bowls during the agreements, continuing their current rotation.
CBS also will continue to televise the American Football Conference package of Sunday afternoon games that it acquired in 1998, while Fox will carry the National Football Conference package that it acquired in 1994. NBC will broadcast Sunday Night Football.
The league said it will expand its rules for "flexible scheduling," which allows games to be moved to different times and even different networks in order to bring regional games to wider audiences. For example, NFL said, more games can be moved between CBS and Fox, although the details have yet to be finalized.
Other changes to the TV contract include NBC gaining the rights to the Thanksgiving night game, and the league expanding its Thursday night package of games on NFL Network, beginning next year, although the number of additional games have yet to be determined.
-By Matt Jarzemsky, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2240; email@example.com