As the announcement came this week that CBS and NBC would share the rights to Thursday Night Football over the next two seasons, an article came from Business Insider that the two networks paying an estimated $225 million per season for their shares would lose money.
Citing a Morgan Stanley analyst and his figures, the article stated that CBS lost over $200 million on the last two seasons of TNF based on the rights fees, production costs and ad revenue. And over the next two seasons going forward, the networks would lose almost $375 million.
But former Broadcasting & Cable editor and Twitter executive Ben Grossman countered that article with this tweet:
Just saw article saying broadcast nets lose $ on NFL using ad revenue minus rights fees + production costs. Lazy analysis, much more value
— Ben Grossman (@grossman) February 2, 2016
There’s more value to the NFL than just the ad revenue coming into the networks. There’s the ability to promote their programming during NFL games, charge higher retransmission fees to cable and satellite providers and the lead-in to the programs that follows a game.
And while just looking at the bare bones, it does appear the networks would be at a deficit, the ratings justify the networks paying the increased rights fees to the NFL. From the demographics of live NFL games, the networks feel that the price is right and are willing to pay to keep them.
CBS and NBC saw the value of having NFL games after both networks lost the rights to the league in 1994 and 1998, respectively. And it’s why they were willing to fight to get games back with different packages in 1998 and 2005.
The networks may lose money, but they can find ways to offset the costs and justify the value of airing them rather than not.