Christmas Comes Early For The NFL

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Christmas came early for the sports juggernaut that is the National Football League. While much of the sports world is looking toward the hardwood for the start of the NBA season, CBS (NYSE: CBS), Fox (NASDAQ: NWS) and NBC (NYSE: GE) renewed their contracts for nine years. 

According to published reports, the average fees from the three networks will increase by an average of 7 percent annually. Total revenue will jump from the current $1.93 billion per year to $3.1 billion by 2022.

Earlier this season, the NFL and ESPN reached an eight-year extension to keep "Monday Night Football" in place through the 2021 season, increasing the rights fee from $1.1 to $1.9 billion annually.

NFL games account for 23 of the 25 most-watched programs among all television shows this fall and draw more than twice as many average viewers as broadcast prime-time shows.

The nine-year terms are the longest for NFL television agreements with over-the-air networks. The previous longest were the eight-year deals with CBS, Fox and ABC from 1998-2005.

CBS will continue to show the AFC package on Sunday afternoons while Fox still has the NFC package.

"Sunday Night Football" will remain on NBC. The network will add the annual Thanksgiving prime-time game starting in 2012 and create a Sunday morning pregame show in 2014 on NBC Sports Network (the future name of cable partner Versus).

NBC also gets three Super Bowls in nine years compared with two in eight seasons under the old deal.

Flexible scheduling will stay in effect to ensure quality late-season matchups on Sunday late afternoons and nights. The deals include "TV everywhere" rights for the networks to simulcast games online and on tablets.

And the new contracts also will allow NFL Network to expand the number of Thursday night games it airs beginning next year. The current schedule includes eight games during the second half of the season.

To give an idea as to the popularity of NFL, one only needs to go to stubhub to see ticket prices for the upcoming Jets-Giants battle. The game is this Saturday at MetLife Stadium between two struggling teams. Ticket prices start at $175 per and those seats are closer to the MetLife blimp than the field of play. 

I do not own shares in any of the cited firms. 

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