It pays to monitor Twitter. I was at Home Depot in North Kingstown when I pulled out the iPhone and saw John Ourand of Sports Business Journal tweet the following:
Big story: NFL is negotiating to extend CBS/Fox broadcast contracts by two years. Bigger story: NFL is on the verge of signing carriage deal with Comcast for digital basic.
I’m like “Whoa!” and sped back home to put this post up.
John, who broke the story, writes that the two deals are connected.
CBS and Fox extending their deals is a sign of the economy. Knowing that advertising revenue is down, the NFL instead of opening up to a wide scale negotiation just went with the terms of the existing deal and increased fees by a minimal amount. It also matches the expiration date of ESPN’s contract for Monday Night Football which ends in 2013. As John reports, NBC is expected to fall in line for two more years for Sunday Night Football.
The bigger part of this is getting the NFL Network on Comcast’s digital basic tier. As John writes:
The NFL Network deal would be much more surprising, given the public acrimony between the NFL and Comcast over the past year. Sources said the NFL dropped its 70-cent per subscriber license fee significantly in order to get digital-basic penetration, the same tier that houses MLB Network. Though a deal hasn’t been signed, sources said Comcast would not take equity in the network.
Sources credit Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for providing the impetus behind getting a deal so close. A digital-basic Comcast deal would account for more than 10 million homes, pushing total carriage for the network to more than 40 million homes.
But just as important for the NFL is that once Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, cuts a deal, that other cable operators generally will fall in line.
This will lead Time Warner, Bright House and Cox along with other major cable providers to make deals as well.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King says the Comcast deal could very well save the NFL Network’s life.
We’ll continue to monitor the developments.