Mar 18, 2021 - Economy

NFL strikes new distribution deals, gives Amazon exclusive rights

Illustration of football player with giant NFL tag attached to him

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The NFL said Thursday it reached new deals with all of the major TV networks and Amazon to distribute its content through the 2033 season.

Why it matters: Despite people cutting the cord at record rates, these deals ensure that most of the NFL's games will continue to be primarily accessed via traditional TV, helping to prop up the Pay-TV industry for at least a few more years.

Driving the news: In a first for the NFL, the League agreed to license all of its Thursday Night Football games exclusively to Amazon Prime Video.

  • Amazon will pay roughly $1 billion per year to carry and produce the games, per CNBC.
  • The NFL and Amazon first began experimenting with a distribution partnership in 2017, when they struck a deal to allow Amazon to stream Thursday Night Football games for the following season.
  • At the time, Amazon reportedly paid around $50 million for distribution rights. Twitter, which had the rights the year prior, reportedly paid about $10 million.

The big picture: The decline in Pay-TV has given the League more leverage to increase distribution right prices than ever before, as evidenced by the massive price increase between the League and Amazon over the past four years.

  • Still, fewer people watching games on live TV presents an enormous challenge for the League. While the NFL has been experimenting with moving rights over to digital platforms, there are latency and technical problems related to putting live sports entirely on streaming platforms.
  • This year's Super Bowl was watched by a total of 96.4 million viewers, its lowest audience in more than a decade.

The Super Bowl schedule for the next 12 years was also released:

  • CBS: 2023, 2027, 2031
  • FOX: 2024, 2028, 2032
  • NBC: 2025, 2029, 2033
  • ESPN/ABC: 2026, 2030

By the numbers: Overall, the deals amount to more than $100 billion, CNBC reports, which includes the following deals...

  • NBCUniversal is reportedly paying about $2 billion for Sunday Night Football.
  • ViacomCBS is reportedly paying $2.1 billion for rights to distribute AFC (American Football Conference) games.
  • Fox is reportedly paying $2.2 billion for rights to distribute National Football Conference games.
  • Disney is reportedly paying about $2.7 billion for broadcast rights for both ESPN and ABC. (The new agreement for ESPN covers 11 years, per the NFL.)

Be smart: The deals also expands TV networks' rights to air games across their digital channels.

  • All of CBS' AFC Sunday afternoon football games will be available to be live-streamed on Paramount+, the streaming service to CBS' parent ViacomCBS.
  • Subscribers to ESPN's streaming service can stream "one International Series game on an exclusive national basis" every season, per the NFL.
  • NBCUniversal's's streaming service Peacock will be able to deliver an exclusive feed of a select number of NFL games that NBCUniversal has rights to.
  • Fox's free ad-supported streaming service Tubi will have expanded rights to deliver NFL programming.

The bottom line: In a statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the deals, combined with the League's recently completed labor agreement with the NFL Players Association, "bring an unprecedented era of stability to the League and will permit us to continue to grow and improve our game."

Go deeper