Written by: Dan Gladman
When the Detroit Lions kick off against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs Thursday at Arrowhead Stadium, it will be the start of yet another colossal calendar of revenue for the world’s most profitable sports league. Numerous estimates figure the National Football League brought in somewhere in the range of $18-20 billion (USD) in 2022, leading all leagues by more than double, and breaking their own record.
It’s no wonder that commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners are licking their chops for the new season ahead, as new TV deals kick in, and the planet’s sporting audience prepares to focus its glare from September until the Super Bowl on February 11/2024 in Las Vegas.
According to Investopedia.com, NFL teams can gross up to $10 million for a single home game. This is a sturdy number considering teams are only guaranteed eight or nine regular season home games per season, with an additional one or two pre-season games. But this money earned simply does not come close to the money delivered by television. It is TV that drives profit in the NFL, with millions of people in North America and the world watching each and every game.
Forbes reported that each of the 32 teams received “$372 million from national media rights, league sponsorships, merchandising and licensing. The biggest chunk by far came from national television deals with ESPN/ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC and Amazon.” League sources told Forbes this figure totaled $249 million per team.
An increase in these revenues is set to rise in the 2023 season. Long term deals begin for the four major networks, keeping the NFL on linear American airwaves through 2033. Each network will pay at least $2 billion per season. Amazon’s industry-disrupting acquisition of the weekly Thursday night game is an additional $1.2B for the league and don’t forget another $2B from Google to exclusively distribute NFL Sunday Ticket to the U.S. This is a raise from the old Sunday Ticket deal which brought a bounty of $1.5 billion from AT&T.
Commissioner Goodell stated: “These new media deals will provide our fans even greater access to the games they love. We’re proud to grow our partnerships with the most innovative media companies in the market.”
The Associated Press reports that the 272 regular season NFL games averaged 16.7 million viewers across television and digital platforms last season. A staggering 185 million American fans watched games at some point during the league’s 18-week schedule.
If you’re looking for game choice and variety in Canada, DAZN’s deal to stream NFL Game Pass International launches next season at $100 million per season, according to Forbes. This number was supplied by an NFL insider not authorized to speak publicly about the agreement. That aside, Canadian DAZN subscribers can watch any NFL game broadcast they choose. There is also the traditional TV package of games every Thursday, Sunday and Monday night, plus Playoffs and the Super Bowl on TSN, CTV, CTV2 and RDS. Bell Media also offers streaming through the networks’ official websites and apps plus direct subscriptions.
“The popularity of the NFL in Canada has never been greater, with fan interest in the league growing across the country each season,” said Stewart Johnson, Senior Vice-President, Bell Media Sales and Sports. “We’re thrilled to continue to bring the NFL to Canadian fans through our multi-platform coverage.”
Despite the enormous value of the national and international media deals – estimated by Forbes to be about 67% of the league’s total football-related revenue – there are other methods to continue the breathtaking earning. Investopedia.com reports the NFL is halfway through a 10-year partnership with Nike and online sports retailer Fanatics. The deal ensures Fanatics is the only manufacturer of all adult-sized, Nike-branded merchandise sold through the league’s online store. The value of this deal is undisclosed and undoubtedly pales in comparison to the TV numbers, but a litany of likeminded corporate deals in merchandising, licensing and sponsorships add up and raise the overall sum higher and higher.
Ticket sales and concessions are similarly small time comparatively for the teams operating on game days in their stadiums. However, sales of food, beer, souvenirs, and parking contribute, especially when the time comes for stadium renovations. It goes without saying that NFL game days are huge boosts for local economies providing countless jobs and profits for restaurants, hotels and stores. Look no further than Patriot Place in Foxborough, Massachusetts, a 450-acre entertainment destination surrounding Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots play.
All businesses need to grow, even the biggest ones, and the NFL has its eyes set on more growth in television. Ten years fly by, and the NFL on network TV is practically a religion in the U.S. The future is hard to predict but it’s difficult to see a world where games aren’t broadcast on TV. This doesn’t mean streaming won’t rise. It already has and tech companies are surely eyeballing potential partnerships with the league.
The world of legal gambling is still in its infancy and no sport is more set up than American football. As the sports betting industry matures, the NFL surely will be at the forefront of creating revenue streams.
Another NFL season begins. As fans of teams plan their Super Bowl journeys one thing is for sure: the league has dug in for yet another record-smashing year of revenue and growth.