The NFL has a great money deal with the networks -- apparently, even if no games are aired.
In the event of a possible NFL lockout by owners, the NFL players' union complains, the league still gets a collective $4 billion dollars from all its television partners.
The NFL calls it a "loan" -- that is, it would have to pay back the money should, in fact, the networks not have any NFL football to air. Still, to the players' union, it comes to a massive amount of money, essentially as an "interest-free" loan.
Back in 1987, the NFL put a bunch of "replacement players" in games for three weeks -- games that TV networks ran. It didn't go over too well with viewers.
This couldn't happen again. Much more is at stake these days. TV sports franchises may be even more important to big media conglomerates these days -- which is why the NFL's rights fees have ballooned to that $4 billion number.
That said, the NFL has been a ratings and revenue rock, offering up consistent TV ratings year in and year ago, including even higher ratings the last several years for its biggest game-- the Super Bowl. More importantly, the NFL, the top sports franchise among TV networks, is in the driver's seat with big name advertisers/marketers.
The players' union claims that $4 billion dollars -- about half of all revenue the league gets -- is going into the coffers of the team owners. The union also says team owners would save another $4.4 billion in players' salaries if there is a year-long strike.
We wonder: What network would strike this kind of arrangement with any other TV producer/provider? What network would offer, say, "replacement" actors/reality stars if the real ones go on strike?
The TV networks had to contend with a writers' strike in late 2008/early 2009 -- all of which had programmers offering up reruns and plenty of cheap, union-free reality TV show and performers. But TV producers and studios didn't get a "loan."
If an NFL strike comes to pass, it isn't just an interest-free loan TV networks will be worried about. It would be lower revenues and weaker relationships with advertisers -- as well as collateral damage from the lack of the NFL umbrella effect on their other shows.
The worst of it: Apathetic viewers may be slow to return.