Amazon in Talks to Carry Many NFL Games Exclusively on Prime Video--Update
By Joe Flint
The National Football League is on the verge of signing new
rights deals with media partners that could see Amazon.com Inc.
carry many games exclusively and TV networks pay as much as double
their current rate, people familiar with the matter said.
New agreements could be in place as early as next week, the
people said. The TV deals for the league's Sunday and Monday
franchises with Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN are likely to run for as
long as 11 years, they said.
ESPN's deal would go into effect after the 2021-22 season while
the Fox, CBS and NBC agreements would kick in after the 2022-23
A deal with Amazon would result in a significant number of
Thursday night games exclusively on its Prime Video platform and
represent the league's deepest foray into streaming, some of the
people said. Those games wouldn't be available on traditional
television outside of the local markets of the two teams playing,
Amazon has become an aggressive bidder for sports rights here
and abroad. The company already has a relationship with the NFL as
it has held streaming rights for Thursday night football since
2017. Those games have also been televised by the league-owned NFL
Network and most recently by the Fox network, whose parent Fox
Corp. shares common ownership with News Corp, the parent company of
Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co.
If completed, an Amazon deal wouldn't take effect until after
the 2022 season, when Fox's current pact for Thursday night
football expires. Fox is now paying $660 million per season for
that package, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. If the
Thursday games go to Amazon and there is no other video component
beyond the local TV markets of the teams playing, that yearly fee
Amazon pays could reach $1 billion, people with knowledge of the
Amazon currently pays between $75 million and $100 million to
stream Thursday games, a person with knowledge of the deal said. As
with Fox, that contract still has two seasons on it. The NFL
Network would continue to carry a handful of exclusive Saturday and
Thursday games as its contract with distributors requires it to
carry at least five games per season, people familiar with the
league's thinking said.
A deal with Amazon for most Thursday night games would solve a
potential problem for the NFL. While Thursday games get strong
ratings compared with any other programming, the high price tag was
making it a tough sell with broadcasters who already carry NFL
packages such as Fox, which analysts and industry insiders estimate
loses $250 million per season. Prior to Fox's deal, CBS and NBC
shared Thursday games and their combined losses were more than $200
million, people familiar with those agreements have said.
A move to put a chunk of NFL games -- which typically dominate
television ratings -- exclusively on a streaming platform isn't
without risk. Amazon carried one game exclusively last year and
drew an average audience of fewer than five million, much lower
than the typical NFL game on broadcast television or ESPN's "Monday
The league is trying to strike a balance between embracing new
platforms and the revenue they represent while keeping most of its
games on traditional television.
Fox Corp.'s annual average fee for its Sunday afternoon games is
expected to jump to around $2 billion from the current $1.1
billion, the people familiar with those negotiations said.
ViacomCBS Inc. likely will see its average fee per season of Sunday
afternoon games go from $1 billion to the $2 billion range, the
The new deal for Comcast Corp.'s NBC is also expected to more
than double from the average of $960 million it pays per season now
to around $2 billion, a person familiar with that pact said. NBC's
streaming service Peacock will also carry one game exclusively and
will simulcast NBC's Sunday night games, the person said.
The league in addition expects to get a big increase in fees
from Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, people familiar with the matter
The fee hikes come after a season in which ratings were down for
the regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl. Network executives say
they believe that the coronavirus pandemic played a large part in
the declines and feel numbers will improve once normalcy
In addition, CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN are all facing challenges in
holding on to viewers, making live sports ever more important.
This next round of long-term deals may be the last time the NFL
is able to command such giant fee increases from its broadcast and
cable partners as fragmenting viewership and cord-cutting are
expected to only increase in the coming years, said
MoffettNathanson media analyst Michael Nathanson.
"This is a sign that the NFL wants to take as much as they can
for as long as they can. A decade from now, the world will surely
look different and a new set of bidders will need to emerge," Mr.
One TV deal the NFL isn't yet renegotiating is the Sunday Ticket
package, which allows fans to watch any game on Sunday afternoon.
AT&T Inc.'s DirecTV has the package through the 2022 season at
an annual price of $1.5 billion. AT&T Chief Executive John
Stankey has indicated that Sunday Ticket isn't the growth engine it
once was and isn't critical to DirecTV anymore. In addition,
AT&T's own interest in the satellite broadcaster is also
fading. Last week, it struck a deal to sell a 30% stake in DirecTV
to private-equity firm TPG for $1.8 billion.
Write to Joe Flint at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 03, 2021 16:41 ET (21:41 GMT)
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