We are officially two weeks away from the start of the NFL’s new year. Free agency will also begin on March 17, and with the league saying the salary cap will be no less than $180 million, we could still see the 2021 cap be higher than expected.
The NFL has given a firm figure yet for what next season’s cap will be, but the new TV deals could have an impact. In a recent report, John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal says the league has reached a new deal with Disney/ESPN to renew the Monday Night Football package.
“Sources said Disney is expected to pay an increase of up to 30% from its current deal, which based on an average of $2B per year would equate to around $2.6B. An agreement comes after news leaked last week of a stalemate between the two sides, which initially were so far apart in price that some ESPNers questioned whether to cut a deal ...
The increase that Disney will pay is far below the other networks — as Fox, CBS and NBC all are seeing the average annual value of their contracts double. ESPN is paying the highest rights fee in the current deal, and the increase aligns Disney’s NFL package closer to its broadcast competitors.”
As part of the new deal, ABC will be back in the fold to air future Super Bowls, splitting the Big Game with the other three networks.
Fox will continue to control the NFC games, CBS will still get the AFC package, while Sunday Night Football will continue on NBC. The NFL hasn’t confirmed the new contracts, but if it does in the coming days, the league could look to work with the NFL Players Association to figure out how to spread out the increase in revenue.
As part of the collective bargaining agreement signed last year, the players’ cut of the revenue will increase to 48 percent next season. The new TV contracts will result in a significant jump in the salary cap in the coming years.
But if the players and owners can reach a deal to take smaller increases in 2022 and beyond, we could see the 2021 cap rise from the projected $180 million expected floor.
Another big part of the TV packages is what happens with Thursday Night Football. The SBJ also says the NFL is nearing a deal with Amazon Prime Video for the TNF package. Fox’s current deal expires at the end of the 2022 season, and apparently isn’t interested in renewing the contract.
Amazon would hire its own production and broadcasting crew and would share some of the games with the NFL Network.
The final equation to the NFL’s TV deals is what happens with Sunday Ticket. DirecTV’s contract also runs out after the 2022 season and says it has lost up to $2.5 billion due to the Sunday Ticket deal. Because of this, DirecTV has no plans of re-upping with the NFL.
The league could partner with Amazon, ESPN +, DAZN or another over-the-top provider to air out-of-market games. Sunday Ticket cost just under $300 last season.
We could see the NFL make these TV deals official before the league announces the official salary figure for 2021, which means the San Francisco 49ers could, in fact, have more than the $12.5 million in cap space they’re projected to have this offseason (per Over the Cap).