If you watch sports on television then you should know that the stations on which you are watching these games are willing to pay billions of dollars for the rights to show these games on their networks. Sometimes these contracts can do a lot for a league, but in other cases they can do more for the network.Sports leagues can get more exposure from certain networks than they do from others. For instance, the NBC Sports Network has aired more National Hockey League games every year than ESPN networks had aired prior to NBC taking on the NHL’s main American TV contract after the 2004-05 lockout. In other cases, a TV contract can turn a network into a big player. In 1993, Fox beat out CBS to get the rights to air NFC games in the National Football League. This not only caused CBS to lose NFL rights for the first time in close to forty years, but it also helped Fox become a more prominent sports network at a time when it was not considered to be competitive with the “big three” networks.
Sometimes networks can go after very specific games within a league or sport. This can include television deals with specific college sports conferences. For example, CBS has the rights to many SEC football games and Fox Sports 1 has the rights to Big East men’s basketball games. No matter what network gets TV rights though, the network will reap the rewards from advertising revenue and added exposure. Big sporting events can even help increase exposure of different programs on a network in the form of advertisements, thus potentially increasing their overall ratings.
This list contains then of the ten biggest sports TV contracts in history. These include deals where some networks were willing to pay billions just to get the rights to air games from certain leagues. The list is limited to one entry per network contract. For instance, many pre-2014 NFL football contracts are not included.
10. Comcast – NHL – $200 Million Per Year (2012-Present)
NBC took on the rights to the National Hockey League’s American television contract after ESPN left the league following the 2004-05 lockout. The Walt Disney Company paid $120 million per year before the lockout, but NBC got the rights for only $70 million per year for the following two years. Games were aired on OLN, a cable network that eventually became Versus and then changed to its current name, the NBC Sports Network. Today Comcast owns NBC and the NBC Sports Network and in 2012 the league’s TV rights in America moved back above pre-lockout levels to $200 million a year.
9. Turner – NBA – $445 Million Per Year (2008-Present)
Turner Broadcasting owns TNT, a cable network that airs National Basketball Association games throughout the year. TNT has been airing games since 1988 and has been paying $445 million per year for the rights to air these matches. This is a far cry from its first contract when it was paying $25 million a year to cover NBA games in its first two years. TNT eventually went on to pay close to $70 million a year for the rights to air NBA games after that first contract ended in 1990. The value of its contract has expanded dramatically ever since. Today TNT has the rights to air one conference final as well as festivities for the All-Star Game, outside of the actual game itself.
8. Disney – NBA – $485 Million Per Year (2007-Present)
The Walt Disney Company, a group that owns ABC and the ESPN family of networks, took in the rights to National Basketball Association games in 2002. The company originally paid $400 million per year for the rights to air the games, but the value of the deal has gone up to $485 million and will be good until 2016. This contract allows the networks to air games in primetime and on weekends to a national audience. It also gives ABC the right to air the NBA Finals as well as the All-Star Game. Disney also has to right to one conference final according to the contract.
7. Fox – MLB – $500 Million Per Year (2014-Present)
Fox currently pays $500 million per year for the rights to air Major League Baseball games. This is part of a $4 billion deal that will go on for eight years, reaching the end of the 2021 season. This deal allows Fox the rights to a massive amount of MLB events including the World Series, one League Championship Series, two League Division Series’, the All-Star Game and a large number of Saturday afternoon games. These games will be split between Fox and its two new cable networks, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.
6. CBS/Turner – NCAA – $740 Million Per Year (2011-Present)
The NCAA men’s college basketball tournament is hugely popular in the United States. Today, CBS and Turner have a deal with the NCAA that’s worth $10.8 billion and will last for fourteen years, up to 2024. This deal will pay the NCAA $740 million a year, as CBS and Turner networks like TNT, TBS and truTV will air all of the tournament’s games. This deal is not only of high-value but it is a key part of what prompted the NCAA to expand its tournament to include 68 teams from the 64 that it always had. There have also been rumours that the NCAA is looking to further expand the tournament to 96 teams.
5. Comcast – NFL (Sunday Night Football) – $950 Million Per Year (2014)
While NBC left the AFC package for NFL games after the 1997 season, Comcast has been airing the NFL’s Sunday night games as well as assorted playoff matches and some primetime Thanksgiving games since 2006. Comcast broadcasts its games on NBC in English and Telemundo in Spanish. Whereas NBC was paying $650 million in 2006, Comcast is paying $950 million per year today. In addition, Comcast gets around half a million dollars for every thirty seconds of advertising space during its Sunday night games. In fact, Sunday Night Football is the most-watched television program in the United States during the fall television season.
4. CBS – NFL (AFC) – $1 Billion Per Year (2014-Present)
CBS had held onto the rights to air NFC football games in the NFL since 1956. However, CBS was beaten out by Fox in 1994 for that contract. It would not be until 1998 that CBS would get back into the NFL business as they outbid NBC for the league’s AFC package. CBS paid $500 million a year to get a new NFL deal, but today the value of that contract is twice as large. Still, CBS’ contract is not as valuable as Fox’s contract with the NFC. This may be due to the AFC not having as many large markets. The NFC has New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Dallas while the AFC has New York, Miami and Houston.
3. Fox – NFL (NFC) – $1.1 Billion Per Year (2014)
Fox has a deal with the NFL to air NFC games up to the end of the 2021 season. The NFL renegotiated a deal with Fox to extend coverage of NFC games by eight years as Fox will pay $1.1 billion per year for the rights to air these games. Fox has been airing games from the league’s NFC package since 1994. Fox paid only $395 million per year when they started to air games. The network pulled off this move as a means of being more competitive and today the NFL has become a staple of Fox’s programming, helping to make Fox a more prominent national network and grow its sports department.
2. SkySports – Premier League – £760 Million ($1.22 Billion USD) Per Year (2013-present)
SkySports, a prominent sports television network in the United Kingdom, has paid a large amount of money to the Barclays Premier League to air games featuring one of the world’s most prominent soccer leagues. SkySports will air 116 matches from 2013 to 2016 while the BT group will air 38 games. Setanta and ESPN have both been left out of this deal. The contract is worth the equivalent of $1.22 billion in the United States per year, making it far more lucrative than the $83 million per year deal that NBC has to air Premier League games within the US.
1. ESPN – NFL (Monday Night Football) – $1.9 Billion Per Year (2014)
Monday Night Football was an institution on ABC for years, but in 2006 the Walt Disney Company chose to move its Monday night games from ABC to ESPN, a cable and satellite network that Disney also owns. ESPN initially paid $1.1 billion to get the Monday Night Football game rights and the number has increased to around $1.9 billion. These games are among the highest-rated programs on cable in the fall and are still aired on network television in the markets of teams that are playing. This contract will be good until the end of the 2021 season and totals $14-15 billion.
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