Late season games can be moved to Monday nights

Updated: November 9, 2004, 12:57 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The NFL agreed Monday to $8 billion in contract extensions with Fox and CBS to televise Sunday afternoon games for six more years, deals that would also allow the league to show better matchups late in the season in prime time.

The current contract, which expires after the 2005 season, was worth $17.2 billion, including the Sunday night (on ESPN) and Monday night (on ABC) packages. The extensions will run through 2011.

ESPN and ABC continue discussions with the NFL on both the Sunday night and Monday night packages.

The deals give the NFL the option to move seven late-season games from Sunday to Monday night to feature more attractive matchups, according to an official within the league who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The NFL also can develop late-season prime-time satellite or cable packages of eight games, which would be televised on Thursdays and Saturdays. Or the league could take those eight games and show them regionally in prime-time telecasts on Sundays and Mondays.

DirecTV also extended its deal with the league through 2010 for the Sunday Ticket package. The satellite distributor will pay $3.5 billion for the five-year extension.

Fox will pay $4.3 billion, or $712.5 million per year for the NFC games, the source said, while CBS will pay $3.7 billion, or $622.5 million a year.

"We're extremely excited to have a new six-year deal with NFL," CBS co-president Leslie Moonves said. "This happened ahead of when we thought it would happen, but we are thrilled with the deal we made.

"We made money on the last deal and will make even more on this deal."

CBS continues to televise AFC games, a package it acquired in 1998. CBS handled all NFL games from 1956 through the 1970 merger, then took over the NFC until 1993, when Fox outbid CBS for that package. CBS then outbid NBC for the AFC games.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said there will be no changes in the traditional Sunday afternoon kickoff times for regular-season games.

Each network gets two Super Bowls during the contract period. CBS will do the game on Feb. 4, 2007, and Fox will handle the game a year later. The other Super Bowls for the networks will be assigned later.

The agreements also include a commitment by CBS and Fox to phase in high-definition coverage and introduce new interactive elements to NFL game telecasts.

DirecTV televises via satellite every Sunday afternoon regular-season game to markets that otherwise would be blacked out of those games.

"Our DirecTV partnership complements and supports our broadcast television packages," Tagliabue said. "This new agreement expands our joint commitment to the ongoing development of innovative ways for fans to enjoy the NFL."

In addition to some interactive services, DirecTV will institute a separate "Red Zone" channel devoted to taking viewers from game to game when a team is inside an opponent's 20-yard line and poised to score.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.