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Thursday Night Football Holding Up NFL Media Rights Announcements

“Young writes that the NFL wants the rights situation taken care of before March, so teams know exactly what the salary cap is going to be.”

Ricky Keeler

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Before the NFL can set the official salary cap heading into the 2021 season and free agency, one of the things they need to know is what their TV rights deals are going to look like in the future. The last thing the NFL needs to clear up before those deals are officially announced is what network will get Thursday Night Football

According to Jabari Young of CNBC, the Sunday deals are expected to remain the same in terms of who has the rights. However, does FOX still want to keep Thursday Night Football, especially if it is not helping their bottom line? 

“Networks are not showing any interest in it [Thursday Night Football]. They had it. It’s not exclusive. They are not making a profit off of it and at that price point, it is not really worth it,” said Young on CNBC’s Closing Bell. 

Back in 2018, FOX paid $650 million a year for a 5-year deal to be the network that had Thursday Night Football, which is also currently streamed on Amazon. The question is if FOX does not want the broadcast, could it shift over to ESPN? 

Young reported that there might be interest for ESPN to take on the TNF package and pair it with ESPN+, even though it could potentially help out another streaming service in the process.

“There’s speculation a streaming service such as Amazon could bid on the package. But with Fox, CBS and NBC no longer interested in simulcasting the game on a third-party streaming service, Amazon would have to find another partner to produce the game.

“There is a possibility that ESPN could take on the Thursday Night Football game and air the game on ABC. But that would mean helping a rival streaming service as it tries to grow its own ESPN+ offering.” 

However, how skeptical is Disney about paying the lucrative rights fee? In an article written by Cynthia Littleton over at Variety, Disney CEO Bob Chapek talked about how far the company would be willing to go to keep football on ESPN.

“We’ve had a long relationship with the NFL. If there’s a deal that will be accretive to shareholder value will certainly entertain that and look at that,” Chapek said during Disney’s quarterly earnings call. “Our first (priority) will be to look and say ‘Does it make sense for shareholder value going forward?’”

In short order, there will be more clarity on the situation as the NFL shifts to a 17-game schedule in 2021. Young writes that the NFL wants the rights situation taken care of before March, so teams know exactly what the salary cap is going to be. 

As Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported in December, the combined rights fees from CBS, FOX, NBC ABC/ESPN, and Amazon could reach over $100 billion. The contract for Monday Night Football runs out after next season and the other networks have their deals run out after 2022-2023. 

While most of the new rights fees are ready to go, Thursday Night Football is reportedly holding everything back. Which network will get that package once everything is done? We will soon find out. 

Sports TV News

Ian Rapoport: I Have Never Thought It is Me vs Adam Schefter

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows.”

Jordan Bondurant

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In terms of NFL insiders, Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter are the two biggest names out there. And sometimes it can be a race between the two to get the biggest scoops first. Especially now with the NFL coaching carousel in full swing.

This week two teams hired new head coaches – the Broncos traded two first round picks to the Saints to acquire the rights to Sean Payton and the Texans signed DeMeco Ryans.

Rapoport tweeted that Denver had pursued Ryans up until the day they announced the trade for Payton.

Not even 15 minutes later, Schefter appeared to clarify the information out there with the two teams.

On The Pat McAfee Show on Thursday, Pat McAfee referred to the conflicting information as a “source off.”

Ian said he stood behind what he put out there.

“I know it’s fun to call it a source off or whatever, but for me I reported what I had based on the best information I can get – based on talking to many, many people throughout the course of the last month,” Rapoport said from the Senior Bowl. “And then whatever happens as a result of this I don’t really mind.”

In terms of any sort of rivalry between him and Schefter, Rapoport doesn’t view it as a head-to-head matchup.

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows,” he said. “And everyone can sort of judge for themselves whichever way to go.”

McAfee gave kudos to Rapoport for his reporting on the Ryans situation. He also said it’s a good thing Rapoport doesn’t worry himself too much about what other insiders are doing.

“I think you should feel good about it, but I do like a good source off,” McAfee said. “And I appreciate the fact that you don’t view it as you versus Schefter. But you two are at the top of the game. So that’s a compliment more so than anything.”

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Sports TV News

AEW Considers Launching Streaming Service

“It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.”

Jordan Bondurant

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All Elite Wrestling is looking into launching its own streaming service.

According to reporting from Bloomberg, a source “familiar with management’s thinking” said AEW is looking to strike a deal with broadcast partner Warner Bros. Discovery.

Since launching in 2019, AEW now puts on two weekly shows on Warner channels TBS and TNT and airs two shows on YouTube.

Last year AEW acquired Ring of Honor from Sinclair Broadcast Group. As part of that deal, AEW took ownership of RoH’s extensive content library Honor Club. So much like WWE did with WWE Network when it launched in 2014, AEW could launch its streaming service and have all of Ring of Honor’s content in a one-stop shop.

It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.

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Sports TV News

NBC Officially Unveils Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge as New Big Ten Booth

“With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

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It’s officially official: Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen will join the Big Ten on NBC booth when the network begins airing the conference’s football package in 2023.

NBC made the announcement Thursday, after weeks of speculation about the moves.

“We are excited to showcase Big Ten Saturday Night on the NBC Sports’ primetime marquee,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “When you hear Todd’s voice, you know it’s a big college football game. It has been that way for decades.

“Noah is one of the industry’s rising young play-by-play commentators, who has excelled calling numerous sports across multiple platforms for a wide range of audiences. We are thrilled to pair him in the booth with Todd.

“Kathryn has told the stories of so many memorable Notre Dame Football moments over the last decade in her on-field reporting and interviews,” Flood continued. “With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

Blackledge joins NBC after working as a college football analyst for the network for the past 17 seasons. Previously, he was the an analyst for CBS and ABC, making 2023 his 30th consecutive season covering college football as an analyst.

Eagle is the son of broadcasting legend Ian Eagle, and currently serves as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes to NBC after calling college football games for FOX Sports in 2022.

Tappen has spent the past nine seasons working NBC’s college football coverage with Notre Dame. Eight of those nine seasons were spent as the network’s sideline reporter before anchoring the studio coverage from South Bend in 2022.

2023 will mark the beginning of a seven-year contract for NBC to air Big Ten football games in primetime. The move is one of the biggest notable expansions in the college football arena for the network since its partnership with Notre Dame began in 1991.

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