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NFL extends TV rights deal

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / December 15, 2011
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The NFL announced a nine-year extension of its television rights deals with NBC, CBS, and Fox yesterday, news that came as little surprise given the massive ratings success of the current deal; game broadcasts have accounted for 23 of the 25 most-watched shows on television this fall.

But there were some notable developments in the new agreement, which begins in 2014 once the current eight-year deal expires and runs through 2022. Among them:

■The NFL will have a limited option to move NFC games between Fox and CBS beginning in ’14 with the intent of bringing regional games to a wider audience. It will mark the first time that CBS, which has owned rights to AFC games since 1998, will also broadcast some NFC games in the same season. Fox will retain the NFC rights it has had since 1994, and add some AFC games.

■Specific details of the new flex scheduling agreement - which includes potential Fox/CBS game swaps - have not yet been released by the league. The current flex scheduling system, which allows for appealing late-season Sunday matchups to be moved to 4:15 p.m. on Fox and CBS as well as NBC’s “Sunday Night Football’’ slot, will remain in its current format until 2014.

■NBC will pick up a Thanksgiving night game next season and in 2014 will get a divisional playoff game from CBS or Fox. In return, it will lose one of the two wild-card games it currently carries. ESPN, which extended its “Monday Night Football’’ rights deal with the NFL in September for eight years and $15.2 billion, is expected to receive the wild-card game.

■The NFL Network’s package of Thursday night games will expand next season. Currently, it carries eight games in the season’s second half.

■NBC will add a Sunday morning pregame show on the NBC Sports Network, which will change its name from Versus in January. The NFL season will also continue to open with a Thursday night game on NBC.

■Each network will broadcast three Super Bowls over the length of the extension. NBC, which has the rights to the 2012 game under the current deal, gets the 2015, ’18, and ’21 championships. CBS, which has the ’13 rights, gets the milestone Super Bowl L game in 2016, as well as ’19 and ’22, while Fox has the 2014, ’17, and ’20 games.

USA Today reported the extension brings a 60 percent increase in rights fees over the collective $1.93 billion CBS, Fox, and NBC currently pay the league annually, with the three networks eventually totaling $3.1 billion per year. That does not include the $1.8 billion ESPN will pay annually.

“These agreements underscore the NFL’s unique commitment to broadcast television that no other sport has,’’ said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The deal also includes “TV everywhere’’ rights, allowing each network to simulcast games it is broadcasting on tablets and other digital platforms. This does not include mobile phones because Verizon has a separate agreement with the NFL.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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