In the first installment of our series "What's for Sports Media in 2014," we looked at the new television contract for Major League Baseball that begins next year. MLB is not the only sports league that will have a new contract begin next year. The National Football League will also start a new deal that will pay the league billions of dollars and take the NFL into the next decade. For the first time since 1994, there is no major upheaval among the rightsholders. Let's go in-depth as to what you will see starting in 2014
We already told you about the new flex scheduling rules that will take effect next season in the new television contract. That allows for games in the Sunday afternoon regional windows to be moved to the late afternoon national timeslots on CBS or Fox as well as into primetime on NBC.
Other than that, the regular season on the networks will remain the same. CBS is the home of the AFC as it has since 1998. ESPN will continue to air Monday Night Football. Fox is still the home of the NFC dating back to 1994. NBC will be back for Sunday Night Football. And NFL Network will still be the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football at least in 2014.
The postseason is where ESPN is expected to air at least one Wild Card Playoff game (yet to be officially announced). NBC's Wild Card doubleheader will end after this season. Starting in 2014, NBC will carry one Wild Card Playoff game and one game in the Divisional Round.
The contracts with CBS, Fox and NBC run through 2022. ESPN's expires in 2021.
Here's the breakdown for the networks
- Home to the AFC and the AFC Championship.
- Rights to Super Bowls L (2016), LIII (2019) and LVI (2022).
- Through increased flex scheduling, the rights to selected NFC games in the 4:25 p.m. ET window.
- Digital rights to stream games on computers and tablets.
- 17 Monday Night Football games including an opening week doubleheader
- Rights to one Wild Card Playoff Game.
- Rights to the Pro Bowl starting in 2015.
- Expanded highlight rights.
- Continued rights to the NFL Draft.
- Home of the NFC and the NFC Championship Game.
- Airs Super Bowls LI (2017), LIV (2020) and LVII (2023).
- Will air selected AFC games in the 4:25 p.m. ET window through expanded flex scheduling.
- Can stream games on computers and tablets.
- Home of 17 Sunday night games, the Thursday Night season opener and one Thanksgiving night game for a total of 19 regular season games.
- Will air one Wild Card Playoff Game and one Divisional Round Playoff Game.
- Airs Super Bowls XLIX (2015), LII (2018) and LV (2021).
- Flex schedule to begin earlier in the season.
- Streaming rights on computers and tablets.
- 13 regular season Thursday Night games
- Rights to the NFL Draft.
Sometime in 2014, we expect the NFL to award the rights to one half of the Thursday Night Football package along with some late season Saturday night games to either Fox Sports 1, NBCSN, TNT or another network. In addition, the winning bidder could get the rights to a Wild Card playoff game.
You won't notice much difference in the way you watch the NFL on television, however, the flex will come earlier and be seen in a new window. Get ready to see NFC games on CBS and AFC contests on Fox. Unless Jon Gruden takes a coaching job in 2014, you'll hear his analysis in the postseason. And instead of a Wild Card doubleheader on NBC, the Peacock gets games in both the Wild Card and the Divisional Rounds, so no more of the Dan Hicks-Mike Mayock pairing on one Wild Card Playoff Game after this season.
There will be some new features to get used to in 2014. We will be here to chronicle it all for you in the coming months.