On Thursday — while we continued to be focused on what the Kansas City Chiefs are doing in free agency — the NFL announced that it has finalized its future television deals.
The new deals with its broadcast partners will begin in 2023 and will run through the 2033 season — and with the deal now in place, opens the way for the league at add a 17th game to the regular-season schedule in 2021. It is expected that when NFL owners meet virtually at the end of March, they will vote to add the extra game for the coming season.
That move alone will help improve the league’s revenue picture for 2021, helping to get the 2022 salary cap back toward the continuously-rising arc it enjoyed before the coronavirus pandemic. But since the salary cap is calculated on revenue from the previous season, the full financial effect of the new deal — reported to be worth $110 billion over its 11-year term — won’t hit the cap until the 2024 season.
For the moment, the league’s deal with DirecTV for NFL Sunday Ticket — which extends through the 2022 season — remains the same.
To viewers, much will remain the same under the new deal. CBS will still carry most Chiefs games, as it will continue to hold the AFC package of Sunday afternoon games. FOX will still focus on the NFC. Monday Night Football will remain on ESPN — with Chiefs MNF games broadcast locally on ABC affiliate KMBC-TV. NBC will continue its Sunday Night Football broadcast.
All three television networks will have games available through their online streaming services.
But one significant change will be that under the new deal, Amazon Prime Video will be the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football.
Meanwhile, the league’s NFL Network will “televise a select schedule of exclusive NFL games on a yearly basis.” The league continues to promise that local fans will be able to watch their teams on free television, so these games (and the Thursday Amazon games) will also be broadcast on a local TV station for each team — but this also likely means that NFL Network subscribers will have an additional out-of-market contest available to them on most Sunday afternoons.
ESPN and ABC will get two Super Bowl broadcasts — one in 2026 and one in 2030. CBS will carry the 2023, 2027 and 2031 league championship, while FOX will have it in 2024, 2028 and 2032. NBC will broadcast the big game in 2025, 2029 and 2033.
In addition, the new deal will allow flex scheduling — which currently exists only for Sunday night games — to expand to Monday night contests, ensuring that more competitive matchups will appear in both primetime broadcasts. This will create some scheduling headaches for teams, because current flex scheduling only moves games from one time to another on the same day. Under the new deal, flex scheduling will move some games from Sunday afternoon to Monday night — and vice-versa. But teams will have a couple of years to make preparations for these problems.