Pay TV Companies Say ESPN Fumbled With Its $15B NFL Deal;
Ratings: NFL Kickoff Game Down Slightly From Last Year, Still Big

Anschutz Entertainment Group, TV networks and city’s NFL fans are cheering today, but AEG is the most clear-cut winner. The California state Senate sent to Gov. Jerry Brown a bill streamlining the appeals process on the environmental impact report for AEG’s proposed $1.2 billion stadium near Staples Center. In return, the developers promised to build “the most environmentally friendly sports stadium in the country,” according to Sen. Alex Padilla, the L.A. Democrat who co-authored the bill. With the assurance of no drawn-out appeals on the EIR, AEG can start looking in earnest for NFL team that would like to call L.A. home. Politicians from both parties backed the bill, which passed the Senate 32-7. They cited the 23,000 construction and full-time jobs backers say will be created by the the stadium project, which includes a renovation of the L.A. Convention Center. The L.A. City Council cleared the project earlier this

month. Plans call for construction to begin next year, with a 2016 opening targeted. A team could come to L.A. and play in another venue such as the Rose Bowl or Coliseum during the interim. A competing stadium project in the nearby City of Industry, backed by real estate magnate Ed Roski, remains alive. AEG’s proposal is considered more viable by most because of the company’s experience in building L.A. Live and staging major events.

It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but adding the nation’s No. 2 media market may not benefit the networks, or L.A. TV viewers, so much. CBS ($3.73B), NBC ($3.6B) and Fox ($4.27B) are all in, and with Disney’s cable giant ESPN just extending its deal for $15B, they are paying the NFL more than $26B to broadcast games (DirecTV has a separate deal for its subscription package). But the broadcast contracts run through the 2013 season and ESPN’s now goes through 2021. Most observers believe an L.A. team would not appreciably increase the rights value. With no team of their own, L.A. fans for years have been watching three Sunday morning and afternoon games, including all the marquee matchups. NFL rules for cities with teams can limit that to two games per week, and force a game involving the local team –even if it stinks– onto the air in that region. A major benefit for the league and the city would be putting L.A. back into the rotation for hosting the ultra-lucrative Super Bowl. L.A. has been without a team since 1995, when the Rams left for St. Louis and the Raiders headed back to Oakland. AEG president Tim Leiweke has previously said he’s had discussions with the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Chargers –whose stadium deal remains up in the air– about coming to L.A.