The league has retained Goldman Sachs to explore various options, including the sale of one (or more) minority stakes in the business, according to someone familiar with the plans, who was granted anonymity because the details aren’t public. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The move comes amid rapid changes in the media industry. Cord-cutters and native streamers have shaken the traditional broadcast model, and while the NFL is one of the few properties still backstopping the old model, it is also looking further afield to expand the reach of its own media assets.
“The NFL has a proven track record of creating leading media platforms that develop significant audiences so we anticipate speaking to a number of interested parties,” a league spokesman said in a statement. “We do not intend to provide an update on this process until it has concluded and will not speculate about potential outcomes.”
The world’s richest sports league, the NFL has reached a new level of business stability over the last 18 months. In March 2020, the league and the NFL Players Association agreed on a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement that added a 17th regular season game and could ensure labor peace for the next decade. In March 2021, the NFL announced extensions to its broadcast deals that will be worth more than $110 billion over the next 11 years.
Now the league is looking more closely at its own media enterprise. Its three biggest assets are NFL Network, which televises seven regular season games each year; NFL RedZone, the premium pay TV channel that highlights scoring situations all around league; and the league’s website, NFL.com. Other league media assets include the NFL app and archives.
It’s unclear who might be an interested party, but it’s possible the buyer or buyers could come from outside the traditional media world. Tech companies like Amazon and Facebook are starting to dive deeper into sports rights and content, as are sports betting operators like DraftKings.
The NFL Network is in 56.2 million households (for reference, ESPN is in 82 million, while ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX are in 98 million). It’s affiliate fee is $1.79 per sub per month.
–With assistance from Anthony Crupi.