TAMPA, FL – OCTOBER 12: An NFL logo as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on October 12, 2008 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

As the NFL experiments with Amazon, Twitter, Verizon/Yahoo and other potential digital partners, one television executive feels that the league won’t totally ditch broadcast television for online streaming outlets. NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus says while he expects Amazon and Facebook to bid for Thursday Night Football rights against the traditional networks, he feels that when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, the NFL will always choose broadcast over digital.

Lazarus told the TV2020 conference in New York that the broadcast rights for Thursday Night Football could go into the discussion stage with the NFL in the next two to three months. In 2016, NBC got half of the TNF rights for 2017, joining CBS.

Starting last season, the NFL sold the digital rights to Twitter while selecting Amazon for this season. Lazarus said while Amazon and Facebook could compete with the broadcast networks for full rights, he feels the NFL will leave network television in favor of the techs:

“I don’t believe abandonment of broadcast is in the best interest of any sport.”

Lazarus notes that the viewership on Amazon and Yahoo is small compared to what broadcast can deliver.

He added that the rights could serve as a harbinger for future sports TV negotiations, but he wouldn’t say if it would mean that the proverbial sports rights bubble had burst. He said sports rights have been reaching its tipping point for four decades, but it hasn’t poppped yet.

Lazarus joins CBS CEO Les Moonves in believing that the NFL won’t totally leave broadcast. Television’s future may be uncertain, but both CBS and NBC are confident that the NFL will still be a partner in the 2020s and beyond.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.