NFL plans to finalize new TV offers earlier than setting wage cap for 2021 in March

The Super Bowl is complete, and the National Football League is wasting no time drawing its attention to its main source of income: media rights.

The NFL intends to finalize the framework for new TV rights agreements in the next few weeks, and plans to do so before the 2021 salary cap is set in March, according to people aware of the situation.

People asked not to be identified as they are not allowed to speak publicly on league matters.

Network partners Fox, ViacomCBS, NBC and Disney’s ESPN pay the league around 6 billion US dollars a year. AT & T’s DirecTV adds another $ 1.5 billion for the Sunday Ticket package. It was widely rumored that the next 10-year deal could reach $ 100 billion. Other options include a seven-year contract for $ 14 billion per year or an eight-year contract for $ 12 billion per year.

A new 10-year working agreement that was signed with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) last year, further postseason competitions and a regular season schedule for 17 games, which the league plans to implement next season, work in favor of the NFL. So with the extra games, the NFL wants its fee.

The NFL declined to comment.

The packages are expected to remain similar, with Fox and CBS sticking to Sunday afternoon games and NBC sticking to its Sunday Night Football package.

But ESPN is the wild card.

ESPN + is a contender to replace DirecTV for the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, CNBC reported last year, and Disney wants to be part of the Super Bowl rotation too. That said, it could add games to its ABC network.

One of the people who suggested some of the delay in finalizing a new deal is the NFL, which is finding a new home for the Thursday Night Football package that Fox currently holds, but which could drop the deal if it did Ends in 2023.

There is speculation that a streaming service like Amazon might bid on the package. With Fox, CBS and NBC no longer interested in broadcasting the game via a third-party streaming service, Amazon would have to find another partner to produce the game.

There is a chance that ESPN could take over the game Thursday Night Football and air the game on ABC. However, this would mean helping a competing streaming service when trying to expand its own ESPN + offering.

Amazon renewed its agreement with the NFL last April. The latest package included the continued streaming of Thursday Night Football and the exclusive display of a national regular season game on the company’s Prime Video and Twitch platforms. Amazon streamed the San Francisco 49ers-Arizona Cardinals competition exclusively outside of Team Markets for Week 16. CBS produced the game.

Two of the respondents said that if the Thursday package had been resolved, all media rights agreements would have been concluded in December.

ESPN, NBC, CBS and Fox Sports declined to comment.

This October 4, 2020 file photo shows an empty Levi’s Stadium prior to an NFL soccer game.

Tony Avelar | AP

Less preseason games?

The NFL is currently calculating losses for the year, with their clubs providing financial information for the 2020 season, according to one of the people.

The NFLPA will then review the sales reports as both sides negotiate a new salary cap for the 2021 season. The NFL could suffer a $ 4 billion loss among its clubs as Covid-19 prevents full stadiums.

The salary cap for 2020 was approximately $ 198 million per team. The salary cap analysis website, Overthecap.com, estimated the cap would hit $ 180 million in 2021. One of the respondents suggested paying $ 185 million, but in both cases it will mark the first wage cap lowering since 2011. However, that cap is set to rise to over $ 200 million for the 2022 season.

From now on, a new upper limit must be set by March 17th.

Once the new media agreements are final, there is speculation that the NFL could remove two preseason games if it adds the extra regular season game. Should the league add a 17th game, at least one preseason game will be removed under the new collective agreement.

With players demonstrating they can prepare virtually during the pandemic season and no preseason, NFLPA President JC Tretter has called for less wear and tear over the year.

“We had no out-of-season practice sessions, less camp practice and no pre-season games. While some feared these changes would lead to a sloppy 2020 NFL season, our collective level of play across the league has never been higher,” Tretter wrote in December .

“I think the changes made this season have shown that we can bring a fun product to market while further reducing the wear and tear on our players’ bodies,” he added.

In 2019, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also endorsed a shorter preseason.

“I’m not sure when talking to coaches if it takes four more pre-season games to prepare for a season where players can be evaluated and players can be developed,” he said of The Associated Press. “There are other options and we have had a lot of discussions about them.”

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

– CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report.

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