With the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring in 2021 and the broadcast deals ending a year later, the timeline could quickly become very awkward for both the NFL and the NFL Players Association, which jointly will benefit when negotiating with the networks if labor peace can be guaranteed. And with the NFLPA deriving a significant amount of revenue from the national TV deals (55 cents on the dollar), the players have a clear interest in ensuring that the deals remain as lucrative as they’ve been.
“Frankly, we may reach out to some of the network executives in the coming months to figure out ourselves exactly what they’re planning in terms of the changing landscape of broadcasting,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said on Monday’s PFT Live. “The players are in this weird position of benefiting the most you can argue from the television contracts but also not having as much data as the people who negotiate those contracts.”
As a result, the union will have several questions.
“What do those deals look like? What do they contemplate long term with the changing landscape of how consumers are taking up content in sports? And what do those rights fees look like?” Atallah said. “We hope that the league office and those that negotiate these deals will treat the players as partners. If we can come to the table with the TV networks unified, my guess is our revenue stream will be more secure.”
It won’t be easy to significantly surpass the current TV deals, especially with ESPN constantly losing revenue that previously came from people who paid for cable without ever watching the four-letter network. By 2023, ESPN may be hard pressed to cough up big cash for Monday Night Football, which will require that money to come from one or more other companies that can afford to pay gigantic sums to deliver via cable, satellite, Internet, or however video and audio images of games.
Traditionally, the NFL exclusively handles those negotiations. With the NFLPA realizing that its interests are directly tied to the outcome of those talks, it makes sense for the union to take a more active role in ensuring that the league gets the best possible deals for the rights to broadcast NFL games.