SBD/June 28, 2011/Media

NFL Shopping New Eight-Game TV Package For Thursday Nights

Turner, Comcast emerging as favorites to land early-season Thursday package
The NFL is "negotiating with TV networks about a new early-season eight-game package that would start as soon as next season," according to sources cited by Ourand & Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The sources said that the Thursday night package "could be worth as much as $700 million per year." That windfall "could help soften the blow to the players from the emerging labor deal in which they are likely to receive a smaller percentage of revenue than they previously have received." The new package "would not affect NFL Network’s schedule of live games, as the league has decided to keep its channel’s eight-game Thursday night slate in the second half of the season intact." Ourand & Kaplan report the NFL is "shopping the early-season package to interested networks," and Turner and Comcast "have emerged as the most serious bidders for such a package." Comcast "wants the package for Versus, while Turner, which carried a Sunday night NFL package on TNT from 1990-97, has privately craved returning NFL games to its schedule." Also, Fox is "expected to kick the tires on a package for its FX network," but sources said that cable operators "have surcharge protection against FX, which would make it difficult for FX to afford such a package" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/27 issue).

RUNNING UP THE SCORE: CABLEFAX DAILY notes Comcast, having just bid $4.38B for U.S. rights to the Olympics through '20, "isn't afraid to spend money on sports content; it just wants to turn a profit." Despite a "modest black eye due to its labor unrest, the NFL can still be easily monetized." In addition, a source said that ESPN "will take a 'close look' at the package." The network "could reap benefit from airing" two games per week, with the new package in addition to "MNF" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 6/27). In L.A., Joe Flint notes an "increase in the number of networks carrying games will probably lead the current rights holders to seek some sort of concession from the NFL when they negotiate their next contracts after the 2013 television season" (L.A. TIMES, 6/28).
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