The one sports property that networks can count on to bring in viewers is the NFL, and the league took advantage of that belief in the latest round of carriage negotiations.
After eight years away, NBC returns to the fold with the Sunday package formerly held by ESPN. NBC also gets a few more games (including Super Bowls in 2009 & 2012) and additional business for corporate parent GE.
NFL owners must be giddy with the total annual haul of $3.04 billion in broadcast fees. ESPN alone will pay $1.1B, followed by Fox at $712M, CBS at $622M, and NBC at $600M.
ABC has been losing money for years on the deal ($150M last year alone), and figures its prime time schedule is strong enough without the football lead-in. NBC, on the other hand, believes its schedule needs help. (Despite the tremendous revenue drop after the loss of "Friends," NBC is actually more profitable due to the simultaneous loss of the salaries for that hit show.
Many fans want to know how the announcers will fare. This fan hopes ESPN moves its Sunday night lineup of Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, and Paul Maguire to Monday night. Al Michaels and John Madden need a gig... hopefully they'll land the NBC Sunday night deal. Speaking of which, much has changed since NBC last broadcast and NFL game. Fox has upped expectations considerably. Hopefully NBC will compare better with Fox with the NFL than they have with NASCAR, where NBC's efforts are almost embarrassing.
Here's the WSJ's take.