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Deitsch Reveals What NFL Games Networks Wanted Most

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Richard Deitsch has used his latest “Media Circus” column over at The Athletic to prepare football fans for the upcoming NFL season. The two part column was posted yesterday and today.

One of the most interesting pieces of information Deitsch revealed was how the NFL’s four broadcast partners prioritized individual teams and games. He asked the network programmers what they specifically told the NFL that they wanted. Some were more forthcoming than others.

CBS: CBS Sports president Sean McManus passed along the following games that his network really wanted: Patriots at Steelers (Dec. 16); Patriots at Jaguars (Sept. 16); Steelers at Broncos (Nov. 25); Cowboys at Redskins (Oct. 21); Jaguars at Cowboys (Oct. 14); and Steelers at Saints (Dec. 23). “We got most of our top games we requested knowing some of the marquee AFC games are going to go to the primetime package,” McManus said. “We understood that.”

FOX: The network’s president, Eric Shanks, was hesitant to give up his network’s strategy or a specific game ask (his network, of course, once aired The X-Files, which had the slogan “Trust No One”) but Fox specifically asked the league to take some of their quality Sunday afternoon games that aired in the 4:25 p.m. ET window and put them on its new Thursday Night Football package. The major goal for Fox was to improve the Thursday Night schedule (which they did) and to make sure they could protect the 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday window as the most-watched window on television.

ESPN: Burke Magnus, the network’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling and point person with the NFL on schedules, said he was overjoyed when he learned that his network had landed the season opener for the Oakland Raiders. ESPN made the specific request to have the Raiders home opener in the late game Week 1. Magnus said no specific opponent was specified. “The Raiders were a pretty good team two seasons ago. We believe they have the core of a very competitive team, and Jon Gruden obviously was a big part of our family for a long time,” Magnus said. “The game had several angles to it. There is a curiosity factor to Jon’s return to football after so many years, it’s a good team, it’s a really good opponent. There are many reasons to watch.”

NBC: Given the primetime game on Sunday night is the league’s marquee night game, NBC knows it is going to get the league’s best schedule, but network officials really wanted Green Bay at New England on Nov. 4. “This is a fantastic and rare matchup of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady and the Packers and Patriots,” said NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus. “That was a game we requested and lobbied for. We make requests around a variety of games. (NFL vice president and scheduling czar) Howard Katz does a great job of taking care of us and letting us all down gently.”

What stands out the most here is how important ESPN thought it was that they air Jon Gruden’s first regular season game back on the Oakland sidelines. It ends up that the NFL gave Oakland a pretty good opponent for week 1, but given the respective trajectories of the Raiders and Rams, it is hard to believe ESPN is going to get a very good game for the second part of its Monday Night double header.

Also interesting is Fox’s insistence that the NFL beef up the Thursday Night Football slate. Since it’s debut as a full season package, the Thursday night games have been routinely mocked for terrible matchups bolstered by cheap gimmicks like the Color Rush series.

You can read Deitsch’s full NFL season primer here.

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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