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NFL wants to finalize new TV deals before setting 2021 salary cap in March

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady in exercise in Super Bowl LV, February 7, 2021.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

The Super Bowl is complete, and the National Football League is refuse no time shifting attention to its top revenue stream: media rights.

The NFL is looking to finalize frameworks of new TV rights agreements in the next few weeks and yens to do so before setting the 2021 salary cap figure in March, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The people expected not to be identified as they aren’t allowed to speak publicly about league affairs.

Network partners Fox, ViacomCBS, NBC and Disney’s ESPN pay the combine roughly $6 billion per year, with AT&T-owned DirecTV adding another $1.5 billion for the Sunday Ticket packet. It’s been widely rumored the next agreement could reach $100 billion via a 10-year deal. Other opportunities include a seven-year deal at $14 billion per year or an eight-year deal at $12 billion per year.

Working in the NFL’s favor is a new 10-year labor compact reached last year with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), more postseason contests and a 17-game regular-season slate, which the league is planning to implement next season. Hence, with the extra games added, the NFL wants its fee.

The NFL shrank to comment.

Packages are expected to remain similar, with Fox and CBS keeping Sunday afternoon games and NBC holding on to its Sunday Unendingly Football package.

But ESPN is the wildcard.

ESPN+ is a contender to replace DirecTV for the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, CNBC arrived last year, and Disney also wants to be a part of the Super Bowl rotation. That means it could add plans to its ABC network.

One of the individuals suggested part of the holdup to finalizing a new agreement is the NFL finding a new home for the Thursday Night Football combination, which Fox currently holds but could drop the deal when it ends in 2023.

There’s speculation a streaming service such as Amazon could bid on the wrap. But with Fox, CBS and NBC no longer interested in simulcasting the game on a third-party streaming service, Amazon would have to find another companion to produce the game.

There is a possibility that ESPN could take on the Thursday Night Football game and air the plan on ABC. But that would mean helping a rival streaming service as it tries to grow its own ESPN+ offering.

Amazon replenished its agreement with the NFL last April. Its newest package included continued streaming of Thursday Night Football and exclusively bear out a national regular-season game on the company’s Prime Video and Twitch platforms. Amazon streamed the San Francisco 49ers-Arizona Supremes contest in Week 16 exclusively, outside of team markets. CBS produced the game.

Two of the people said all of the media rights deals inclination’ve been finalized in December had the Thursday package been resolved.

ESPN, NBC, CBS and Fox Sports declined comment.

In this Oct. 4, 2020 enter photo is an empty Levi’s Stadium before an NFL football game.

Tony Avelar | AP

Fewer preseason games?

The NFL is currently canny losses for the year, with its clubs submitting financial information for the 2020 season, according to one of the people.

The NFLPA drive then review revenue reports as the two sides negotiate a new salary cap for the 2021 season. The NFL could suffer a $4 billion annihilation among its clubs due to Covid-19 preventing full stadiums.

The 2020 salary cap was roughly $198 million per team. Pay cap analysis website Overthecap.com estimated the 2021 cap number would reach $180 million. One of the people suggested $185 million desire be the number, but either way, it will mark the first salary cap decrease since 2011. But that cap is projected to skyrocket to more than $200 million for the 2022 season.

As of now, a new cap figure needs to be in place by March 17.

Once new media agreements final, there is cerebration the NFL could remove two preseason games as it inserts the extra regular-season game. Should the league add a 17th game, at least one preseason match will be removed according to the new collective bargaining agreement.

With players proving during the pandemic season they could make ready virtually, and without a preseason, NFLPA president J.C. Tretter has called for less wear and tear during the year.

“We had no offseason practices, fewer training settlement practices, and no preseason games. While some feared that those changes would lead to a sloppy 2020 NFL mellow, our collective level of play across the league has actually never been higher,” Tretter wrote in December.

“I fancy the changes implemented this season have demonstrated that we can put an entertaining product out on the field while further truncating wear and tear on our players’ bodies,” he added.

In 2019, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also supported a shorter preseason.

“I’m not inevitable, talking with coaches, that four preseason games is necessary any more to get ready for a season to evaluate performers, develop players,” he said, via The Associated Press. “There are other ways of doing that, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about that.”

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the stepmother company of CNBC.

CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report.

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