NFL Deal Saves Networks from Ad, Programming Scramble

Ten-year deal reached between players, owners

Last Updated: July 25, 2011 @ 4:47 PM

Football fans and TV executives alike may want to start tailgating. The 10-year, multi-billion dollar deal by NFL players and owners Monday will not just save the season, but prevent a network blitz to recover ad dollars and come up with replacement programming.

"Football is back and that’s the great news for everybody," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference.

The collective bargaining agreement includes more league revenues for owners, more money for players, a $620 million "legacy fund" for retired players, and a plan on how to expand the league.

"We didn’t get everything that either side wanted," said NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith. "But we did arrive at a deal that we think was fair and balanced."

The deal also provides stability to games that dominate fall television. Networks won't lose out on ad dollars or have to find last-minute replacement shows that would never have matched NFL ratings. NBC executives said earlier this year they were expecting a deal, but that they had a backup plan calling for live reality specials.

“We are excited to get back to football. From NFL Kickoff to Super Bowl XLVI, each and every week 'Sunday Night Football' will feature strong rivalries and compelling matchups," NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said Monday.

NFL advertising brought in $3 billion to NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN in the 2009-2010 season. The league's ratings growth last season, which included Fox's Super Bowl XLV becoming the most-watched program ever, could push ad revenue up even more this year.

"I think based upon continued increase in viewership last season and a strong ad marketplace, the dollar amount will be notably higher," Horizon Media senior vice president of research Brad Adgate told TheWrap.

If negotiations had dragged on through the summer, media buyers uncertain about the season might have had to purchase ad time elsewhere. 

The deal also prevents the possibility of networks losing the NFL and NBA at the same time. The upcoming NBA season remains a major question mark, with many players already plotting to take their skills overseas for the season. The NBA is worth an estimated $1 billion in advertising for ABC, TNT and ESPN.

But the NFL lockout's end opens up a wealth of other possibilities, and frees up fans to again wonder about what teams will snag free agents in the weeks before the season opens. The NFL released its calendar for the season after the deal was reached Monday.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick set off some of the day's wildest speculation when someone — he later indicated it wasn't him — tweeted from his account that he would love for Brett Favre to come out of retirement and serve as his backup. The tweet was later deleted, but another remained.

"Congrats to both parties on settling the lockout. Intelligent men always find ways to win!!!"