NFL Seeks to Double TV Fees Despite Ratings Drop in Regular Season

by Chris Haney
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Following a decrease in viewership this past season, the National Football League is seeking to double their TV contract fees for networks to televise their games.

The league is currently holding renewal talks with all four existing network partners, including NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN. Supposedly, Disney-owned ESPN is pushing back against the NFL’s proposed higher renewal fees, according to a CNBC report.

Monday Night Football is the NFL’s most costly television rights package. Disney pays $1.9 billion per season for the rights to air the MNF games along with other co-branding opportunities. Additionally, FOX pays $1.1 billion and CBS pays $1 billion for their Sunday afternoon game coverage. Furthermore, NBC spends $960 million annually for Sunday Night Football.

On March 1, the NFL league year begins, so the league and networks don’t have long to come to an agreement. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, game attendance was reduced or canceled altogether. Therefore, the NFL is making it a priority to make up for the lack of revenue received from in-game attendance.

NFL Ratings Down, But Still Top Most-Watched Shows of 2020

What was once an unwavering juggernaut when it comes to television ratings, NFL viewership has tiered off a bit in recent history.

According to Nielsen ratings, the 2020 NFL regular season saw TV ratings drop 7% compared to the 2019 season. However, a report in Variety titled “THE 100 TOP-RATED SERIES OF 2019-2020 (ADULTS 18-49)” shows the NFL is still king of television ratings. The top three rated slots are all held by the NFL and their Sunday night, Thursday night, and Monday night programs in that order.

In addition, Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs was the least-watched Super Bowl since 2007. Yet it’s also the most-watched show of 2021 to date.

According to a Forbes report, the viewership for the 17-week regular-season NFL games decreased across all broadcast and cable networks. The NFL averaged 15.4 million viewers during the 2020 regular season. The viewership ratings equaled the lowest average audience since 2017.

While the league has seen an overall decline in ratings, it’s still the highest-rated television show around. The four networks that hold the rights to NFL coverage will surely want to retain their TV contracts going forward. Last week, Disney CEO Bob Chapek commented on the network’s longtime NFL television rights deal during a company earnings conference call.

“We’re looking at the long-term trends of sports viewership,” Chapek explained. “We’ve had a long relationship with the NFL. If there’s a deal that will be accretive to shareholder value, we will certainly entertain that and look at that. But our first filter will be to say whether it makes sense for shareholder value going forward.”

Outsider.com