It looks like another speech from President Obama is behind the NFL‘s decision to move its regular-season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and Super Bowl champion New York Giants to a Wednesday this year — September 5. The next night, Obama is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention. The league has held its opener on a Thursday night since 2002, but last year Obama’s jobs speech before a joint session of Congress on opening night forced some shuffling at NBC, which televises the game (the pregame show was shifted to the network’s sibling cable channels Versus, USA, Syfy and G4 as well as the NFL Network, and NBC joined the program in progress after the speech). This year’s kickoff, set for 8:30 PM ET at New York’s Metlife Stadium, will be the first Wednesday affair since 1948, the league says. It’s worth it for all involved to clear the way: last year’s Sunday Night Football telecast of the game between the rival Cowboys and Giants on Jan. 1 drew 27.6 million viewers (making it the most-watched regular-season primetime game in 15 years) and posted a 17.1 overnight rating, an SNF record. The past two season openers tallied 17.2 (in 2011) and 17.7 (in 2010) overnights.
Viasat Broadcasting today announced that it has extended its live broadcasting rights to the National Football League (NFL) in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, until the end of the 2017 NFL season. The rights include live broadcast coverage on free-TV and pay-TV, as well as live simulcast for mobile phones and the internet. Viasat has broadcast the NFL in the Nordic region since 2006.
Beginning with the 2012 season, Viasat Broadcasting’s rights include regular season games and all post-season games including the Super Bowl.
Sports television couldn’t have gotten off to a better start to the year than last night’s Super Bowl. NBC had the game, the most-watched event in TV history. A total of 111.3 million viewers tuned in to see the team from the nation’s largest media market win the championship in the nation’s most popular sport. As if anyone needed further proof, the New York Giants’ victory over the New England Patriots is the latest example of how important live sports is to broadcasters and the advertising industry that pays their bills. The leagues and the networks that show them know this better than ever, and watching how each exploits and benefits from this reality will make for a fun spectator sport in 2012 as they go head-to-head with the carriers who are increasingly blanching at the increasingly high fees sports-rich networks can and plan to command. In the middle and up for grabs is the biggest slice of what ZenithOptimedia estimates is $61.9 billion in expected TV ad spend this year, led by anticipation for the London Summer Olympics. Here’s a scorecard of the players to watch:
If the Super Bowl isn’t enough, the most powerful sports league flexed its muscle in December by inking a broadcast rights deal with NBC, CBS and Fox for a combined $27.5 billion over nine years — a whopping 63% increase over the previous contract. (ESPN and the NFL Network have a separate contract for cable.) The deal comes just in time for the networks and affiliates’ retransmission consent negotiations with cable and satellite providers and sets up a showdown over those fees – Miller Taback analyst David Joyce crunched the numbers and found that for all media partners to break even on the new contract, the average pay TV subscriber would have to pay an extra $11.23 a month, up $6.87 from the previous contract that ends after next season. It will be a serious fight. “Congress and the Federal Communications Commission need to throw a flag, because rules and regulations shouldn’t force consumers to bear the burden of broadcasters’ profligate spending, which will surely enrich NFL owners and players just as much as it will impoverish all pay-TV subscribers, particularly those who will never watch an NFL game,” American Cable Association CEO Matthew Polka said after the deal was announced. The new contract, struck in December, came after a labor lockout that threatened the start of the season and centered on how owners and players would split its revenue, including lucrative TV rights. In effect, the potential loss of games only proved how valuable the NFL is, much like the NBA’s own labor stoppage, which trimmed the season but it quickly re-upped with key advertisers and sponsors.
NBC bet big on the Olympics in June on the backs of new owner Comcast, blowing out rivals’ bids with a $4.38 billion move for a comprehensive rights deal through the 2020 Games. We’ll begin to figure out how smart that was right away: the network is prepping the London Summer Olympics for July and August. The all-in for Olympics programming is part of a bigger play by Comcast, which is setting itself up to compete with the likes of ESPN and Turner in the sports realm by rebranding its niche Versus channel the NBC Sports Network. Visions of ESPN’s $4.69-per-customer carriage fee are spurring the move — Versus took in $122.6 million in ad revenue last year, according to SNL Kagan, while ESPN took in $1.48 billion in ad sales and $5.27 billion in affiliate revenue. It’s a long-term play for sure, but Olympics coverage will plant NBC Sports Network’s flag in a bunch of new homes this summer, as eventually will new deals signed last year with the NHL (10 years, $2 billion; ESPN and Turner were in the race for that deal) and to a lesser extent Major League Soccer (three years, about $30 million). NBCUniversal and Comcast aren’t the only ones gunning for ESPN. Fox Sports in October beat out the sports giant for English-language rights to the next soccer World Cup contract in 2018 and 2022, in bidding that also saw NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo claim Spanish-language rights from Univision. Fox Sports and cable sibling FX also inked a multiyear deal with UFC, the mixed-martial arts league.
The Federal Communications Commission took the first step today toward elimination of local TV station blackouts of professional football games and other sporting events. The commission asked for public comment on eliminating its own rules that support sports league …
Cable operators are gearing up for a brutal scrimmage with broadcasters over program licensing fees — and consumer pay TV rates — following this week’s agreement by …
UPDATED: The NFL said that this is the longest TV deal ever for the league’s broadcast rights. Although terms weren’t disclosed today, the total package for America’s most popular sport is now estimated at $7 billion (counting earlier cable-rights deals with ESPN and DirecTV). That’s even more than the lofty increases some were expecting. The NBC contract solidifies the network’s flagship Sunday Night Football and includes a primetime game on Thanksgiving. The CBS agreement provides it access to AFC and NFC games for the first time in the same season. The networks will continue rotating the Super Bowl broadcasts; NBC is up next this season. “The agreements would not have been possible without our new 10-year labor agreement and the players deserve great credit,” NFL commissioner Roger Goddell said. “Long-term labor peace is allowing the NFL to continue to grow, and the biggest beneficiaries are the players and fans.” The league also plans to add to the number of Thursday night games carried by the NFL Network, but how many has yet to be decided. Here are the releases announcing the deals, starting with NBC:
NEW YORK – December 14, 2011 – NBCUniversal today agreed to a new and extensive media rights agreement to extend its NFL rights package through the 2022 season. The new agreement includes many enhancements that broaden the exposure of NFL content on NBC, and across other NBCUniversal platforms.
“This is a great day for NBCUniversal and the NBC Sports Group. There is no more powerful programming on television than the NFL and no better program than Sunday Night Football. The long-term agreement announced today provides us with significant enhancements to our existing NFL package, ensures that we will continue our partnership with the NFL for many years, and adds tremendous value to the many assets of NBCUniversal. We could not be more pleased,” said Steve Burke, CEO, NBCUniversal.
“Sunday Night Football on NBC is the most-watched program on primetime television, and we’re excited to continue our long-term partnership with the NFL,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Sports Group. “The new primetime Thanksgiving game starting in 2012, the upgraded playoff package and the three Super Bowls are all major enhancements to our new agreement. The additional digital and programming rights add tremendous value to the NBC Sports Group portfolio.”
This new and extensive media rights agreement includes many enhancements vs. the previous agreement:
When CBS chief Les Moonves appears at an investor event like this week’s UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference, they should just get him an orchestra and a spotlight so he can sing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” “Everybody calls me a cheerleader but network television’s doing better than it’s done in many years,” he told analysts today. He says that CBS’ prices for ads in the scatter market are up “in the mid-teens” over the upfront, although “our competitors are doing not as well.” Heading into the holiday season ”demand is picking up again” and few are cancelling upfront orders for early 2012. “When you look at where our ratings are, you don’t want to cancel a CBS show because (later on) you’ll pay more.” To underscore his confidence in CBS’ finances, he threw some red meat to investors: ”Could we raise the dividend (next year)? That’s a possibility.”
He’s encouraged by the additional dollars flowing to the network from retransmission consent deals with pay TV distributors, and reverse compensation payments to CBS from its affiliates. If a local station balked at shelling out cash to CBS — which used to pay stations to carry its shows — then Moonves would consider yanking the affiliation agreement. But he says that’s unlikely because CBS’ strong primetime line up ”is making them a lot of money” by delivering large audiences to local newscasts. Meanwhile, he’d like the FCC not to require that network programming remain on pay TV when distributors balk at retransmission consent payments. ”This is America. We’ll make a deal with these guys or won’t make a deal.”
MONDAY AM, 8TH UPDATE: As a studio exec exclaimed to me this morning: “I guess there’s been a reason there has never been three $20 mil pics on a September weekend. Football!” Monday numbers show both Moneyball ($19.5M) and Dolphin Tale ($19.1M) missed the mark….
CBS chief Les Moonves joined the chorus of media execs telling analysts today that they aren’t feeling any pain from the anemic economy. “We don’t see a slowdown,” he told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. Ad pricing in the TV scatter market is strong, he says. Also, “people who bought (ads) in the upfront are increasing their orders.” Even radio and billboards are holding up. Indeed, Moonves expects the television network to be “very much in demand in the first quarter. Our schedule is very strong. The other guys have a lot of new shows. I know we’re the boring network, but we’re the stable network and we just win.” Stations also will benefit from what he says will be a record level of spending for the 2012 elections. “It may not be good for the country, but it’s going to b good for CBS.”
Anschutz Entertainment Group, TV networks and city’s NFL fans are cheering today, but AEG is the most clear-cut winner. The California state Senate sent to Gov. Jerry Brown a bill streamlining the appeals process on the environmental impact report for AEG’s proposed $1.2 billion stadium near Staples Center. In return, the developers promised to build “the most environmentally friendly sports stadium in the country,” according to Sen. Alex Padilla, the L.A. Democrat who co-authored the bill. With the assurance of no drawn-out appeals on the EIR, AEG can start looking in earnest for NFL team that would like to call L.A. home. Politicians from both parties backed the bill, which passed the Senate 32-7. They cited the 23,000 construction and full-time jobs backers say will be created by the the stadium project, which includes a renovation of the L.A. Convention Center. The L.A. City Council cleared the project earlier this