With their NFL rights agreement up in 2022, FOX continues to be in the “very, very early discussions” of negotiating a renewal according to Deadline.
Because of COVID-19, timing isn’t great for the NFL to lure multiple suitors, but with most of their rights contracts extending into 2022, there’s no rush in finding lucrative and mutually beneficial deals. In March, it was similarly reported that the NFL was beginning to discuss new licensing partnerships, but at the time, we were unsure of the impact COVID-19 was going to have on sports and the economy. We still don’t know how far the global pandemic will reach, but it’s likely more significant than the NFL anticipated three months ago.
Even with economic downfalls because of COVID-19, the NFL shouldn’t struggle to find platforms interested in spending big for the product. Boosting the regular season schedule to include a 17th game, along with two additional playoff contests, helps feed the desire from networks that can’t get enough NFL football.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has also been vocal about his willingness to attract platforms and offers from companies beyond traditional TV networks for their rights deals.
“I think this next negotiation is going to be fun, more complex,” Goodell told CNBC last summer regarding TV partnerships. “Probably will include additional players because our whole strategy is to have great reach and to be able to engage our fans. And you have to do that on different platforms.”
FOX, however, is reportedly willing to pay significantly more than what they currently do for NFL rights, which will likely be necessary. Following a 10% viewership decline in 2017, the last two seasons enjoyed 5% improvements each year. Ad revenue last season was said to have increased from around $4.2 billion to $4.4 billion.
As viewership and ad spending increased in recent seasons, similar jumps have been estimated for the cost of NFL rights fees. Even with COVID-19 concern for the 2020 season, the NFL isn’t going to accept a discount. Sunday afternoon packages are expected to cost around $2 billion, with Monday Night Football commanding closer to $3 billion. The most recent deal FOX signed with the NFL came in 2011, worth approximately $1.1 billion annually.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend
The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.
FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.
In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.
The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.
Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.
FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.
Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.
ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling
“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”
ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.
ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.
Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.
“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”
Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.
NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records
FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.
The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.
The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.
The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.
The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.
Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.