How Much Do TV Networks Pay For NFL Games?

It seems like every NFL season is inevitably filled with complaints concerning which games are available on which channels. This can get even more complicated during the NFL playoffs, where the stakes are higher while the access remains just as limited. This issue added a whole new level of complication this season when NBCUniversal decided to air a streaming-only NFL wild card game on its app, Peacock. Despite fan grumbling, the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Miami Dolphins game drove 2.8 million sign-ups on the app and had a record-breaking 23 million viewers (via Variety). With that in mind, it's safe to say more streaming-only games are definitely coming next season.

You might find yourself wondering why and how some football games belong to certain networks. Even more so, how much these networks are willing to pay to air these games. The NFL, in 2021, announced a new monstrous 11-year media deal with its TV partners. In the deal, which started with the 2023-24 season, the NFL is earning a whopping $113 billion over 11 years across five different broadcasters — Disney, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Amazon — as reported by The Associated Press.

These TV networks have negotiated everything from broadcasting rights to the amount of playoff games to the specific Super Bowls they get to air, and since the deal is good through 2033, you can rest assured you'll know in advance what networks will be airing what games. However, even though these NFL games are on multiple networks, each network didn't pay the same amount to have its exclusive rights.

Weekly games

Fans new and old are aware of the National Football League's scheduled weeknight games. NFL games are played and aired during primetime slots on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday nights (though the majority of games are played during the day on Sundays). These scheduled primetime games generally belong to certain networks that have dedicated commentators and packages.

Historically, "Monday Night Football" aired exclusively on Disney-owned ABC. However, since 2006, when the game was moved to another Disney property, ESPN, it's been a less consistent option for the average viewer. Since 2020, select games have aired on ABC throughout the season. For the 2023-24 NFL season, Disney spent $2.7 billion for the rights to 21 NFL primetime broadcasts, per Front Office Sports. This isn't only more than any other network, it's also the second-most ever for one company in a single NFL season.

The 2023-24 season marks Amazon Prime Video's second year as the NFL's exclusive "Thursday Night Football" broadcaster. Even though "Thursday Night Football" hadn't found a permanent home previously, Amazon agreed to pay roughly $1 billion a year for the rights through 2033 (via Forbes). NBC, meanwhile, took over the rights to "Sunday Night Football" in 2006 and, per the agreement in 2021, NBC signed an 11-year extension to maintain the rights through 2033. According to Sports Pro Media, part of the $2 billion annual contract also includes rights to the NFL kickoff season opener, which usually plays on a Thursday, in addition to the evening Thanksgiving Day game.

Postseason games

Before fans even have an inkling of which teams might make it through the regular season, the NFL has already sold the rights to every playoff game. Part of the media rights deal the league struck with the TV networks ensures certain games, like the AFC and NFC title games, exclusively belong to a certain network. The AFC Championship remains with CBS for the duration of the current contract, while the NFC Championship will continue to air on FOX.

For the wild-card and divisional-round games, each TV network has its own deal. CBS, NBC, and Fox each get one wild-card and one divisional game a season. However, each network also has select seasons where they get a second wild-card game. Plus, ESPN now airs a divisional playoff-round game in addition to its wild-card round game.

The networks have also already been selected for every Super Bowl through the end of the 2033-34 season. Per the 2021 NFL media contract, the league agreed to let CBS, Fox, and NBC each air three Super Bowl games, while ABC gets two. The four networks will be on a rotation, meaning CBS will air the Super Bowl in 2024, 2028, and 2032; Fox in 2025, 2029, and 2033; NBC in 2026, 2030, and 2034; and ABC in 2027 and 2031. Notably, Super Bowl LXI in 2027 will be the first time ABC has aired the game since 2006.