Are you ready for some ... money?
On Thursday morning, the NFL and ESPN announced an eight-year extension that will put "Monday Night Football" on that network through the 2021 season. As with most television contracts the NFL currently has, the current agreement between the NFL and ESPN was set to expire by the start of the 2014 season.
According to several sources, the extension will put $1.9 billion per year in the NFL's coffers — it is an increase of over 60 percent from the current deal, which puts it very much on line with other projected TV contracts that will greatly increase the league's revenue pie.
"We are proud to extend our three-decade partnership with ESPN," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. "We have come a long way together since ESPN first televised the NFL draft in 1980. With this new agreement we are excited about the opportunity to take the NFL-ESPN partnership to innovative new heights in serving the most passionate fans in sports."
The full scope of the extension comes in at $15.2 billion. For one game per week. ESPN also gets other media rights and the Pro Bowl through the life of the deal.
Prorate that out to the full-season deals the major networks will be negotiating in the next few years, and we could be talking about some very silly money indeed.
Currently, it is estimated that the league will take in approximately $10 billion in gross revenue to be split between the owners and players per the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement. But if the other TV agreements coming up by 2014 have a similar percentage increase (and everyone estimates that they will), the NFL could be in line to drag in $14-15 billion per season.
The players agreed to a slightly smaller percentage of the revenue splits in the new CBA based in part on these estimated numbers, and there are other things that could be affected. You can certainly expect Goodell to re-visit his favorite subject — the 18-game regular-season schedule — once there's more money to increase roster size make veteran minimum salaries larger, and otherwise make the concept of two more regular-season games so appealing, there's simply no way the players and the NFLPA could resist.
You can also expect the league, in conjunction with all their partner networks, to push very hard for a team in Los Angeles by that 2014 date. AEG is set to break ground on L.A.'s Farmers Field in 2012, pending all legal and political hurdles, and one would imagine a very happy set of networks willing to open their wallets that much more with an NFL team back in the nation's second-largest market.
Very soon, the NFL will be a new world. And as it has generally been, television will lead the way.