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NFL gives Amazon exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football

Yahoo Sports NFL reporter Charles Robinson, joins Yahoo Finance to report the NFL finalizing a 11-year media rights deal and the addition of Amazon Prime Video as an exclusive partner to stream Thursday Night Football.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: Yesterday, after the market closed, the NFL and its media partners announcing the long-anticipated formalized media package with most of its existing partners-- some changes around the edges, we'll get into those-- 11-year deal, could be worth in excess of $100 billion. Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson joins us now for some of the details. Charles, let's start with what stands out to you as the most important part of this deal. I think some people think it's the Amazon package. Others would say it's Super Bowl coming back to ABC. How-- how did you see it?

CHARLES ROBINSON: I mean, Amazon has entered the chat. That's what's most important to people in the NFL. I can tell you, NFL owners giving Amazon that Thursday night rights package beginning in 2023 is-- is just a monumental occurrence for the NFL. Because look, when Roger Goodell in-- in 2010, he told owners, we want to hit $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027. What Roger Goodell didn't know in 2010 was that Amazon would be a $1.5 trillion company in 2021. He didn't know that Amazon would be a content carrier and essentially-- really effectively able to buy any of the networks that were currently NFL partners. So to become a partner with Amazon, to the NFL owners, is a significant step forward.

And I think part of this deal that's interesting is that the Sunday NFL ticket package has not yet been worked out. It was not part of this deal. So that still expires after 2022. There's no guarantee it stays with DirecTV. ESPN's been hotly pursuing that. But I know there are some NFL owners who would love to get Amazon involved there and make it part of their-- potentially Prime-- package. I still believe that's something that leans toward ESPN.

But long-term, when you look at this deal, there's a seven-year opt-out clause in the 11-year deal that can be triggered with most of these, if not all, the partners before the 2030 season. If the television landscape changes significantly, or Amazon comes and says, hey, we want to take a bigger stake at the table, you could see that opt-out. But it's really about Amazon entering into the fold as a business partner for the NFL going forward.

MYLES UDLAND: So we just had that graphic up of the annual spend from-- from each of the partners. And it's interesting that the cable network that has, well, you know, the network that has the fewest games, I guess we could say, ABC ESPN, has the-- the highest spend. Where did that relationship-- like, where does that go from here?

And do you think that, you know, the team at Disney walks away happy with this deal? Because certainly towards the end of the last package, especially around the Monday Night games-- the quality, of the games, the announcing booth, all that stuff-- There were just seemed like-- man, ESPN kind of got the raw end of the deal.

CHARLES ROBINSON: Well, one thing that ESPN did get out of this deal, that it really wanted, was the ability to flex games. And, you know, the league said, look, starting week 12, if you want to flex your matchups on Monday Night Football, we're going to allow you to do that. That's a huge change. I mean that's-- and not only for ESPN, because it allows ESPN to sit there and bring the best possible content to the table for its-- its broadcast rights, but also for NFL fans.

A lot of NFL fans, you get the complaints when we get to late November, December, that there were too many dog games on Monday Night Football. There are too many bad teams that had gotten locked in. While the NFL said to ESPN, not only are we going to allow you to flex starting week 12 and bring the best matchups to the table, we're also going to allow you to expand the number of teams that can appear twice on Monday Night Football to four. Now if they really want to cherry-pick four teams and say, they're-- these four teams, we want them on Monday Night Football twice this season, the NFL is going to allow that. So ESPN did get some things out of this deal.

And again, I think that Sunday ticket package, the fact that-- I think the deepest exploratory talks the NFL has had has been with ESPN about bringing that to ESPN Plus. So there's still a carrot on the table for ESPN, and when you talk about the overall spend, that's where ESPN sits there and says, hey, we're giving you more money in this deal than any other part you have, including Amazon-- we should be getting, really, the cornerstone rights not only to Monday Night Football but also that Sunday ticket franchise.

MYLES UDLAND: Sounds like Chiefs fans should get ready for at least one Monday night game per year, at least-- certainly the season ticket holders. Charles, let's talk a little bit about how this plays into free agency and how the players are going to feel about this. Obviously, the cap is going down this year as a result of the impact from COVID. I don't think the Players Association has been super happy with how some of that has gone. Obviously, they negotiate all this out. How do you think the players and their camps are thinking about this deal for, you know, the next contract for a lot of these guys that will come up in two, three, four years?

CHARLES ROBINSON: Well there's no doubt that agents aren't happy with the fact that there has been the cap rollback. And we're particularly starting to see the effects of that in NFL free agency in that second wave. There's-- we always call it in the NFL the strong second wave, where you have, basically-- the first round comes out, that's massive deals, and then you have some guys who are positioned to really pick and choose in the second round, both from the team end but also from the player end. And you'll still see some sec-- some really big contracts in the second wave.

That's not going to happen here. Not only is that not going to happen, you're going to see a lot of the middle-tier free agents linger for quite a while in free agency. That's all due to the cap rollback. And, you know, to sign a massive TV rights deal in the middle of this, you'll see agents that say, this is ridiculous-- we have this cap rollback and you're celebrating this massive deal. But the union sits there and it says, hey, this is a revenue share-- you should be happy, no one should be upset that-- that the league signed this massive, gargantuan TV deal.

And, by the way, remember it kicks in in 2023, so that's when you're going to see the lion's share of this portion for us really roll out into the cap. So NFL teams right now, the way that a lot of their salary cap models are built out, this year was the rollback, next year will be considered, quote unquote, a "flat cap," meaning next year will really be what this year's cap should have been. And then 2023 is the gap-up.

That's what every team is expecting, that in 2023 there will be the big step up in the cap. And then every year after that, the-- the graduating steps will be large. And I've spoken to some teams that say, hey $250 to $260 million by five years from now is realistic for the cap, that that's where the salary cap could be. Which is significant, considering we're looking at $183 million right now.

MYLES UDLAND: And maybe it'll be time for Mahomes to restructure his deal again to increase that annual cap hit, which I think comes down to something like 50 million. But, as you know, the numbers are always made up in the NFL, and the cap hits can always be massaged. We'll see what's going on in New Orleans this year. All right, Yahoo Sports's Charles Robinson, thanks for jumping on this morning. Always fun-- we'll talk soon.

CHARLES ROBINSON: Thanks for having me.