NFL Monitoring Paramount-Skydance Merger Impact, Commissioner Says

If Paramount Global’s merger with Skydance Media goes through in 2025, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t ruling out a possible renegotiation of the football league’s rights agreement with CBS.

In 2021, the NFL renewed an agreement that would allow CBS Sports to continue to be the home of the American Football Conference (AFC), which consists of a full slate of regular season and playoff games each year, including the AFC Championship, as well as a Divisional game and a Wild Card game.

It further secured rights to three Super Bowls and additional Wild Card games in the 2024, 2029 and 2033 seasons. The pact also included a long-term rights extension for Pluto TV,CBS Sports HQ” and “Inside the NFL,” which began streaming exclusively on Paramount+ that year.

In 2022, the league also entered into a joint venture with Skydance Sports to significantly expand its programming, with an emphasis on scripted and unscripted non-game content.

“CBS has been a great partner for us back to 1956, I think they’ve been extraordinary right up to the Super Bowl this past year, where we had record ratings at the Super Bowl. So they’ve been a great partner. We’re obviously paying close attention to the process,” Goodell said when asked by CNBC during a Thursday interview at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. “We know Skydance, we’re partners with Skydance. They’ve done a terrific job with our relationship. So we’ll look at the structure of the deal, we’ll see how it impacts us, we’ll see how it impacts our business, and we’ll make the best decision for the NFL at that point.”

When asked if the NFL was being underpaid, pointing to the recent NBA negotiations for a $76 billion, 11-year contract, Goodell touted the “great relationship” with its partner networks, adding that its media rights agreements are less about money and more about reaching the widest possible audience.

“Obviously, we want to be paid fairly, but for us, it’s about reaching fans. Being on a free platform like we are allows our fans to see that, and I think that’s what’s led to the great — not only popularity of the league, but obviously the great ratings.”

One way the NFL is expanding its reach is through a partnership with Netflix to stream games on Christmas Day.

“Over 85% of our games are on free television and we’ve committed, even when it is on a platform that’s a paid television platform, that in the local markets of those two teams, it will be on free television. So I think we’re going where the fans are,” he explained. “Netflix has close to 300 million subscribers on a global basis, which was really attractive for us in being able to reach that global fan … I think the three games we played on Christmas last year were in the Top 25 of the entire season. So I think they’re going to take this, they’ll globalize it, they’ll put, you know, a Netflix twist to it, and I think it will be great for the fans.”

Goodell also suggested that Netflix could see more NFL games as part of the league’s ambitions to expand internationally.

“Maybe,” he said. “We believe that the game is going to be incredibly popular globally. We just have to bring more games to them.”

In addition, Goodell addressed the recent court ruling that the league would have to pay over $4.7 billion in damages for violating antitrust laws for distributing out-of-market Sunday afternoon games as part of their “Sunday Ticket” subscription service.

“We obviously disagree with the jury verdict. And we are committed, obviously, to following the legal process,” he said. “It’s a long process. We’re aware of that. But we feel very strongly about our position, our policies, particularly on media, that we make our sport available to the broadest possible audience. ‘Sunday Ticket’ is just a complimentary product. So we’re committed to following the litigation, all the way, and making sure that we get this right.”

The suit was originally filed in 2015 and dismissed in 2017 before being reinstated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It covered 2.4 million residential subscribers and 48,000 businesses who paid for the package of out of market games from the 2011-2022 seasons on DirecTV.

The commissioner also said the NFL is considering capping private equity ownership of its teams at 10%.

“We’ve been very deliberate on this, just looking at our ownership policies in general and as sports evolve, we want to make sure that our policies reflect that,” Goodell explained. “We created a committee last September that looked at all aspects of our policies, including debt and including private equity. We’ve had a tremendous amount of interest. And we believe that this could make sense for us in a limited fashion, probably no more than 10% of the team. But that would be something that we think could complement our ownership and support our ownership policies. So we think we’re moving in a very positive direction. And hopefully, we’ll have something by the end of the year.”

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