There is great uncertainty throughout professional sports about the exact economic impact the pandemic will have on gross revenues and team revenues, and the ramifications might not be fully grasped for years. However, the NFL’s revenue model provides owners more fail-safes than other leagues given the mechanisms within their national television contracts (assuming all games are able to be played, of course).

The flurry of big spending and massive contract extensions doled out just before the kickoff of Week 1 is further evidence of that. Sources said the league was making significant headway on many of its television deals, which expire after next season, and there is a very strong sense within Park Avenue and among individual owners that multiple groundbreaking TV deals will be finalized by early 2021.

If not for the impact of COVID-19 — both financially but even more so logistically given all of the time, energy and resources that had to be devoted to restarting the league amid the virus outbreak — these deals would have been completed prior to the start of the season, the sources said. The NFL is very comfortable with its over-the-air broadcast partners, including CBS, the sources said, and the Sunday afternoon packages are not expected to change dramatically (though obviously the price continues to soar). 

In addition to those contracts, new streaming deals are expected to be completed, and Disney is making a significant push to expand the scope of its NFL foothold beyond the current Monday Night Football package, seeking to put games on ABC. Despite the pandemic, and playing games with limited to no fans for the near future at least, there is a strong sense that within a few years the NFL will be back headed towards its goal of $25 billion in annual revenue. With 10 years of labor peace already secured, the league is only beginning to dabble into the gambling industry, and several teams possibly passing the $3 billion threshold if they get to the market by 2022, the fiscal prognosis for the league remains robust.

Even with a cap dip possible in 2021, and some future cap growth perhaps negated a bit as well (if the league and union opt to “borrow” against future cap to mitigate the decrease next year), numerous owners were willing to reset the market at multiple positions on the eve of the season. Jalen Ramsey became the first $20 million-per-year corner and DeAndre Hopkins signed a record extension for a receiver, while Patrick Mahomes became the first $45 million a year NFL player earlier in the summer.  

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