In the latest interactive monthly data report, SportBusiness Media analyses the media-rights landscape of the National Football League.
Further detail on the deals covered in this interactive data report is available with our Rights Tracker tool – click here for more information.
Most valuable league in the world
The NFL is the world’s most valuable sports property, with media-rights revenues amounting to nearly $7.8bn in 2018, according to the SportBusiness Consulting Global Report. It generates almost the entire media-rights revenue for the whole sport of American football, which accounts for approximately 15.7 per cent of the global media-rights market. The NFL generates about 72-per-cent more media-rights revenues than the English Premier League, the second-most valuable sport property in the world.
NFL media-rights revenues have had a compound annual growth rate of about 3.5 per cent from 2014 to 2017. The relatively low average growth rate was due to the long nature of its domestic agreements.
However, its media-rights value has increased by about 7 per cent since 2017 due to two more lucrative domestic agreements, with telco Verizon for streaming rights and with Fox for Thursday Night Football. Verizon’s agreement saw an increase of about 100 per cent on the value of the previous streaming rights deal, from 2014-15 to 2017-18. The deal with Fox was a 47-per-cent increase on the value of the NFL’s previous agreements for the same packages with CBS and NBC.
With no new major domestic agreements set to come to market until 2021, the value of NFL rights is set to remain relatively flat in the next two years. The NFL is expanding into a large number of markets, and international rights values might slightly increase in the upcoming years as a consequence of renewals in key markets like the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), France and the UK.
The NFL continues to earn the vast majority of its media revenue from its domestic agreements with CBS, Fox, ESPN and NBC which all began in 2014.
Its biggest deal is with ESPN for Monday Night Football rights in the US until 2021. The deal, which started in 2014, also included exclusive English-language international rights to all NFL matches in the markets where the broadcaster operates.
The NFL’s second-biggest deal, which includes the NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market subscription, is with pay-television broadcaster DirecTV. It runs from 2015 to 2022.
The other major domestic deals are with CBS, Fox and NBC, which each acquired NFL rights until 2022. These deals represented a 53-per-cent increase on the three broadcasters’ previous deals that ended in 2013.
Each broadcaster has rights to three SuperBowl Games, following a rotation among networks.
Fox holds rights for the National Football Conference, CBS holds rights for the American Football Conference, and NBC shows the Sunday Night Football package of primetime matches, the season-opening match and Thanksgiving primetime match.
For regional broadcaster deals, NFL teams only make local deals for their pre-season fixtures, unlike other North American sports like basketball, baseball and ice hockey. Therefore, these deals do not generate significant revenue and contribute to the singular teams’ media revenues.
Slow growth of international rights
Despite an incredibly strong domestic value, the NFL’s international rights only contribute about one per cent to the total NFL media-rights value.
In the past five years, the NFL has tried to attract more fans from other key international markets, such as the UK and Germany, by organizing NFL games in Europe, and some modest results have started to emerge.
In 2015, the NFL agreed to a four-year distribution deal with MP & Silva in Europe (excluding the UK, Germany and the Nordics). However, this agreement was cancelled following the agency’s collapse, and the NFL started selling European rights directly.
Outside of North America, the UK represents the most valuable market for the NFL, where pay-television broadcaster Sky holds rights to all NFL matches until the end of 2019.
The NFL also agreed to an international rights distribution deal outside the US, with territorial limitations, with DAZN Group (then Perform) in 2017. The deal runs for five years from 2017 to 2021. Last year, DAZN brought Italy and the DACH region into the agreement, where DAZN was exploiting the rights itself.
The DACH region is a vital market. The combined deals with DAZN (for pay-television rights) and ProSiebenSat.1 (for free-to-air rights) generated a 73-per-cent increase in revenues from 2016 in the same region. Moreover, rights are expected to increase by 34-per-cent from 2020, following the new deal between ProSiebenSat.1 and the NFL.
In Canada, DAZN used NFL digital rights to launch its OTT platform in 2018, while Bell Media currently holds linear rights until 2021.
In China, the NFL’s exclusive deal with online streaming platform Tencent is coming to its conclusion this year. It had previously secured an increase of approximately 50-per-cent in the annual value of its digital rights from its previous deal.
Rise of the FAANGs
Given its role within the global sports media market, the NFL has become an interesting property for the new players in the sports media market: the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google).
The NFL was one of the first sports federations to sell live rights to these companies. In 2016, it sold live digital Thursday Night Football rights to Twitter for just one season. Amazon acquired the same rights a year later increasing the NFL’s media revenues for the same package by about 257-per-cent, in a one-season deal.
In 2018, Amazon renewed its deal for two additional seasons, streaming Thursday Night Football games that are broadcast on Fox Sports Live on Amazon Prime. This deal represented one of the most expensive acquisitions for live sports rights by one of the FAANGs.
Facebook is also interested in the NFL, as illustrated by the strategic alliance with the league first struck in 2017, which includes recaps from every regular-season match and video highlights from key NFL events, such as the NFL Draft, Pro Bowl, and the Scouting Combine.