NFL Seeking To Double Its TV Fees Despite Drop In Regular Season Ratings

2021 NFL Schedule

The National Football League had a down year, ratings-wise, but it wants to double the fees it receives for allowing its current network partners to broadcast games.

CNBC reports renewal rates discussions are going on with all four of the league’s existing network partners — NBC, CBS, Fox, and Disney-owned ESPN, according to people familiar with the matter. So far, CNBC says, Disney is pushing back on increased renewal fees.

The NFL league year starts March 1, giving the sides about a month to wrap up an agreement. The league had few fans in attendance at its games this year, owing to the pandemic, and also saw regular season television ratings drop 7%, according to Nielsen. That makes it imperative to make up the revenue shortfalls.

Disney pays more than NBC, CBS and Fox for its Monday Night Football package, paying $1.9 billion annually for its rights, CNBC reported. That deal runs through 2021 and includes other cobranding opportunities.

Fox pays $1.1 billion, CBS $1 billion and NBC $960 million for Sunday Night Football.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek reportedly alluded last week to the NFL’s asking price during his company’s earnings conference call.

“We’re looking at the long-term trends of sports viewership,” Chapek said on Feb. 11. “We’ve had a long relationship with the NFL. If there’s a deal that will be accretive to shareholder value, we will certainly entertain that and look at that. But our first filter will be to say whether it makes sense for shareholder value going forward.”

While NFL games remain popular viewing attractions compared to other television shows, there were bumps in the road during the season, culminating in Super Bowl LV being the least-watched Super Bowl in recent history. It was, however, the most-watched show of 2021 so far.

Forbes reported earlier that in 2020 the audience for the 17-week regular season NFL games dipped across all broadcast and cable networks. The 2020 regular season averaged 15.4 million viewers (live + same day), a 7% decline from the previous regular season. It was the lowest average audience since 2017.

Spokespeople for the NFL and the networks declined to comment on the CNBC report.

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