The NFL reaffirmed its status as the crown jewel of sports television Wednesday when owners approved contract extensions with three broadcast network partners through 2022.
The price: About $1 billion per season per network, according to Sports Business Journal.
The new deals technically take effect in 2014, after the current ones expire, but some changes will occur before then, notably NBC taking over the Thanksgiving night game from the NFL Network in 2012.
NBC, CBS and Fox will continue to take turns showing the Super Bowl, but beginning with the 2014 season NBC will give up one of its wild-card playoff games in favor of a divisional round game. The wild-card opening likely will go to ESPN, which recently agreed to a new deal through 2021, for which it will pay $1.9 billion a year for "Monday Night Football'' and other content rights.
The revised television system will feature more flexible scheduling, including some shifting of AFC and NFC games between CBS and Fox to expand the possible audience for attractive games. NFL Network's Thursday night package will expand, but the number of games has not been announced.
The networks will pay from 48-to-58 percent more than they currently do for the NFL under the new deals.
Even though the high prices make it difficult for the networks to make money directly off NFL games, the league delivers massive audiences that are important promotional platforms for other programs.
Carrying NFL games also gives broadcast networks negotiating leverage in extracting retransmission fees from television distributors, an increasingly important source of revenue.