File under acceptance: CBS knows it must pay up for the NFL

September 14, 2011

This time of year, it seems everybody loves football. The players, the fans, and, of course, the TV executives. And what’s not to like about football if you’re running a TV network, provided you have a deal with the NFL? Check it out, a total of 107 million viewers tuned into games between Thursday and Sunday on CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC.

So it should come as no surprise that CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves, while speaking at today’s Bank of America conference, said he intended to renew the contract with the NFL when it expires in three years. “No surprise there,” he said. Indeed. The bigger question is what will CBS end up paying? Just last week, ESPN signed a new contract with the NFL at $1.9 billion a year. Repeat: $1.9 billion. That is about 73 percent more than ESPN previously paid the NFL.

As The New York Post’s Claire Atkinson points out in a story today, the ESPN deal has come under some heavy fire, particularly from the pay-TV industry, worried that it’s going to jack up rates.

“ESPN is a different animal,” Moonves said at today’s conference. “It’s really apples and oranges. There are a lot of other things involved than just the games. There’s a lot of content, and ESPN can maximize it. We have three years left on our NFL deal. We intend to keep the NFL, no surprise there. I’m sure there will be an increase — I hope it’s not the increase that they paid.”

Other comments from the always-upbeat Moonves:

  • Advertising is fine at CBS. Done worry. There’s no slowdown
  • CBS is not about to go crazy on big, blockbuster movies. Keeping it small, keeping it real
  • Not joining Hulu was a totally fantastic decision
  • Forget all that negative stuff you hear about CNET. “We’re pleased with the way it’s going”
  • Political advertising is going to rock, even if the politics are ugly business
  • More digital distribution deals — like the Netflix one — could be considered, “but with caution”
  • Outdoor — ummm, I’m pretty sure he said something about that
  • Publishing is more profitable than a year ago, even with revenue under pressure


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