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TV deals gold for NFL

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Posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 5:52 am | Updated: 8:39 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The NFL on Tuesday savored its most recent embarrassment of riches, new contracts with NBC and ESPN that elevated the league’s annual TV revenue to $3.735 billion — with more money to come.

"Everyone in this room should be excited," Cardinals coach Dennis Green told reporters at the team’s Tempe training complex, "because we all make our living on the National Football League. There is going to be a lot more money for everyone. . . .

"I doubt (the networks) would pay that kind of money unless they felt the market is going to bear it. It’s really exciting."

The latest deals — starting in 2006, ESPN is the home for "Monday Night Football," while NBC takes over Sunday night games — were announced on Monday. Last year, the NFL reached contract extensions with CBS, Fox and satellite package provider DirectTV.

Each of the 32 teams’ annual TV cut will be $116.7 million, an increase of 36 percent from the current deal. That dollar amount will rise when the NFL finds a taker for an eight-game, late-season package on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Even factoring in an annual raise in the salary cap — this past season, it was $85 million — an NFL’s team’s largest expense, player salaries, will be covered by the TV money, with tens of millions left over.

And that’s before a single ticket or piece of merchandise is bought, before a single stadium suite is rented, before a single inch of advertising space is sold. Yes, the life of an NFL bean counter is good.

"There are a lot more apples in the pie, so there will be more to slice out of there," Green said. "I just want us to be a part of the action."

With most of the TV work completed, the league can now turn much of its focus to reaching a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. The current deal expires in 2008.

Gene Upshaw, NFL players association chief, told the Washington Post he expects a new deal to be reached.

"That was encouraging," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "I know we want to get a deal done, and we’ll work hard to get that done."

Carl Francis, a spokesman for the NFLPA, said the union desires a bigger piece of the revenue pie. The players currently receive about two-thirds of the league’s designated gross revenues, which were $3 billion last year.

The fact there will be more dollars to negotiate over should help, not hinder, discussions between the union and league, Francis said.

"The new TV deals will certainly give negotiations a different perspective," Francis said. "Whenever there is a lot more money to talk about, optimism always rises to the top."

Progress will not be made on a new deal, however, until the owners find harmony on revenue sharing.

The owners met in Atlanta on Tuesday to determine how the NFL’s richest franchises (such as Dallas, Washington, New England and Philadelphia) can best share wealth with smaller-market teams (like Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Green Bay).

Dallas owner Jerry Jones said the owners had "some good discussion, but not necessarily progress."

The league wants to have a new CBA before the start of the 2007 season, which will be without a salary cap.

With its new, Fort Knoxsized annual TV take — more than the annual broadcast revenues for baseball, the NBA, the NHL, NASCAR, the PGA Tour and the NCAA basketball tournament combined — there is a big incentive to find labor peace.

"I think what the league is doing under the direction of (commissioner) Paul Tagliabue is pretty amazing, especially in an era where many of the other professional leagues are having difficulty," Green said.

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