Report: NFL close to signing TV deals

BY foxsports • December 5, 2011

The NFL is close to inking an eight-year extension of three media-rights deals that should earn it a total of about $3.2 billion a year from its broadcast partners, a 60 percent increase over its prior contract, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the talks.

The agreements, which would be struck with News Corp.'s FOX, Comcast Corp.'s NBC and CBS Corp.'s CBS, show just how valuable NFL rights have become for broadcasters, which view high-profile live sports as the key element to maintaining their value at a time when consumers have an ever-growing number of entertainment options. The deals would last through 2021.

News Corp. also owns the Journal and NewsCore.

The agreements, including deals with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and satellite operator DirecTV Group Inc., are expected to lock in total average annual media fees for the NFL of about $6 billion. The NFL declined comment.

The expected fee increases are in the range of the NFL's $15.2 billion deal with ESPN for "Monday Night Football." That agreement, which also spans eight years through 2021, included an average annual rights fee increase of $800 million, bringing ESPN's average payment to the league to $1.9 billion per season. The deal also allows ESPN to show games on certain portable devices.

NFL and media executives have been hammering out the details for months and are now in the process of exchanging term sheets, with the goal of completing the agreement before the holidays, the people said.

Few network executives are willing to risk losing such valuable programming. Broadcasters are frequently in battles with cable and satellite operators, looking to extract monthly fees from the cable and satellite operators to carry their channels. Carrying NFL programming strengthens the broadcasters' hands in these talks.

"No one on the broadcast end wants to be without the NFL," said Lee Berke, owner and sports media analyst at LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media Inc. "They go without it at their own peril, and all of that gets factored in when deciding to bid so high."

The current deals with the league's cable and broadcast partners expire after the 2013 season. Those generate about $3 billion a year for the NFL, which is projecting revenue of about $9.4 billion this year. (The $3 billion figure doesn't include revenue from DirecTV.)