A day after announcing that his company had paid $225 million to split 10 NFL Thursday-night regular-season games with CBS, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said that despite the expense, pro football is profitable for NBC.
"Football is profitable for us now, and it will be profitable for us after this [Thursday Night Football deal]," Burke said Wednesday during Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) fourth-quarter earnings call with investors.
In addition to the five Thursday-night games it just signed on for, NBCU pays the NFL $1.05 billion a season for its highly rated Sunday Night Football package.
"We now have 24 of the highest rated nights of the year," Burke said. "That's very valuable for a marketer who wants to reach a broad audience. It's really the most powerful programming on television, and we got it at a very fair rate."
Burke's comments came after CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves told The Wall Street Journal: "I won't lie to you and say it [football is] profitable."
Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris estimates that CBS lost $100 million on its Thursday-night deal this past season.
Moonves claimed the cross-promotional aspects of having the highly rated live programming provided the network with intangible benefits.
Earlier this week, NBCU and CBS agreed to jointly pay the NFL $450 million for 10 regular season games that will also be shown on the NFL Network cable channel. That's a price increase over the $300 million CBS paid to have the rights all to itself this past season.
What's more, the NFL is looking for a digital partner to further share these broadcast rights.
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