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May 03, 2023

Comcast restores NFL Network on Xfinity after dropping channel during contract dispute

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly called Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to get a deal done

Comcast and the NFL have reached a new deal for the NFL Network to remain on Xfinity, the nation's biggest cable-TV operator.

The Philly-based company's deal with the NFL expired Monday, prompting Xfinity to drop NFL Network without another contract in place.

The channel's disappearance from Xfinity came the day after the NFL Draft ended and ahead of the league's anticipated 2023-24 schedule release on May 11.

The Sports Business Journal reported that contract negotiations reached the highest levels of the NFL and Comcast. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly called Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to get a deal done, which is unusual in negotiations for a carriage agreement.

The contract lapsed because the sides had been far apart on money and Comcast was unhappy with the length of the NFL's proposed extensions, which the TV provider felt were too short. The deal ensures that Xfinity subscribers who have NFL Network in the packages will be able to watch the league's popular NFL RedZone show, which follows action across multiple games each Sunday.

NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast, also airs "Sunday Night Football."

Terms of the NFL Network extension were not disclosed.

The deal comes as the NFL continues to capitalize on its ratings with bigger deals for its premium programs. YouTube, owned by Google, acquired the rights to the NFL's Sunday Ticket in December for nearly $2 billion a year. Those rights were held before by DirecTV, which had been paying the league more than $1.5 billion.

YouTube TV subscribers can now get Sunday Ticket as an add-on for $349, or $389 if they want both Sunday Ticket and the NFL RedZone channel. DirecTV had priced the Sunday Ticket package around $300, or $400 for an upgraded package with NFL RedZone and multiple streams on top of a satellite TV subscription.

Amazon Prime, which began streaming "Thursday Night Football" broadcasts last year, is paying the NFL about $1 billion annually for the rights to the primetime slate. The previous "Thursday Night Football" deal between the NFL and FOX, negotiated in 2018, was for about $660 million a year

The opening round of the 2023 NFL Draft averaged a combined 11.29 million viewers across all of the networks that carried it. That was up 13% from 2022. Nearly 1.6 million viewers watched the NFL Network's coverage of the first round of the draft, which marked a 12% decline year-over-year. The network's second day of coverage was about the same as last year, with about 989,000 viewers, and the third day of its draft broadcast on Saturday was up 15% on with about 583,000 viewers, according to Nielson's national ratings.

Comcast's subscriber base for its cable TV service continues to decline, a trend experienced across the industry. The company lost 2 million pay-TV subscribers in 2022, and that followed losing 1.66 million subscribers in 2021. At the start of this year, Comcast had 16.142 million Xfinity subscribers. 

Last week, Comcast reported losing 614,000 cable subscribers in the first quarter of this year, a bigger drop than in any previous quarter. In last year's first quarter, the company reported a loss of 512,000 Xfinity subscribers.