NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed during his annual state-of-the league address today that the league’s NFL Network will expand its primetime Thursday Night Football from eight to 13 games next season. Earlier this year, the league planned to shop an eight-game Thursday schedule to other networks, but the lockout slowed those ambitions. The new deal means all 32 teams will be shown in primetime next season — the NFL Network’s slate begins in Week 2 and goes through Week 15. Of course, not everyone will see those five new games — the network is still not carried on major providers Time Warner Cable and Cablevision thanks to disputes over carriage fees. “We’ll continue to work with them,” Goodell said Friday in Indianapolis, the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl. “We’ll continue to try to get an agreement. The market has spoken. The NFL Network’s here and it’s going to continue to grow.”
UPDATE: ESPN Leaves Open Possibility Of Price-Hike Battles Following $15B ‘Monday Night Football’ Renewal
UPDATE, 9:10 AM: There will be “no NFL surcharge” on cable and satellite companies as a result of the Monday Night Football renewal deal, ESPN chief George Bodenheimer said in a conference call today. But he didn’t rule out the possibility that ESPN will cite the NFL agreement to seek higher payments for its channels when the company renews its contracts with cable and satellite companies. “The fee that we ask of our affiliates is based on the overall value of the ESPN service,” he said, adding that “this agreement enhances our value to our affiliates.” Bodenheimer hasn’t spoken to operators yet about the new terms but wishfully predicts that “this will be received very well by our distributors.” Research firm SNL Kagan says that pay TV companies typically pay $4.34 per month for every subscriber who receives ESPN and ESPN HD, $2.55 for ESPN 3D, and 58 cents for ESPN 2.
Credit Suisse analyst Spencer Wang says that the new deal will increase ESPN’s football-related programming costs by about 6% a year — a slower pace than the previous contract. But the company’s pay TV deals grow about 4% a year.
Meanwhile, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says that he’s open to bringing playoff games to ESPN. But he adds that contracts with other broadcasters run through 2013, and he’s now negotiating renewal terms.
PREVIOUS, 6:53 AM: The new agreement will cost ESPN 73% more than its previous NFL deal, The New York Times says. That likely means the Disney-owned sports channel will ask cable and satellite companies to pay more — which could lead to some big fights: ESPN is already the most expensive basic cable service, and operators resent the roughly $4 per subscriber per month they have to shell out for what’s considered must-have programming. ESPN’s new NFL deal includes additional football-related shows and updates including streaming to Verizon phones. Some terms kick off immediately: Today, ESPN’s NFL Live expands to an hour from a half hour. A discussion show based on fan-submitted questions, Audibles, also joins the Thursday night lineup. This weekend, Sunday NFL Countdown will run three hours, up from two. On Tuesday, ESPN2 will introduce a weekly, hour-long show NFL 32, followed on Friday by another weekly hour-long show NFL Kickoff. Here’s the official release:
Monday Night Football, the most successful series in sports media history, will remain on ESPN through the 2021 NFL season under a new eight-year agreement between ESPN and the National Football League, it was announced today by ESPN and ABC SportsPresident George Bodenheimer and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The broad multiplatform agreement, which begins in 2014, includes eight full seasons of MNF telecasts, expanded NFL studio programming (beginning this week), highlight rights for TV andESPN.com, the Pro Bowl, the NFL Draft, 3D rights, and enhanced international rights.
Sports Report: NFL Thursday TV Package In Play; Dodgers Anger Ally Fox Sports; NBA Lockout Hits The Courts
The NFL is shopping an eight-game Thursday primetime TV package, with commissioner Roger Goodell having informal conversations with networks last week, according to the Sports Business Journal, which is reporting that a stake in the league’s NFL Network might be in play for the winning bidder. The talks are expected to gain momentum now that the league-imposed lockout is over. The NFL Network currently has rights to eight late-season Thursday NFL games; the new package will cover the early season. The SBJ says Turner and Comcast would be front-runners, especially since they have cut previous deals that included league-owned assets (Turner pacted with the NBA in 2007; Comcast has a similar deal with the NHL). Fox and ESPN also are expected to be interested in the package. …
2ND UPDATE, 3:35 PM: A federal court said it could take weeks before it decides whether to grant an injunction sought by NFL players to stop a league-imposed lockout. That’s because the judge wants both sides to agree to federal mediation to help resolve an impasse in finalizing a new collective bargaining agreement, according to Bloomberg. “Both sides are at risk. This is a good time to come back to the table,” the judge said. “This is really a matter to be resolved, in my view, with the services of the federal court.” Today’s hearing in St. Paul lasted five hours.