The NFL has become one of the biggest and major sports in the world in recent years, gaining major popularity outside of the United States. Over the last 15 years, the league has slowly but surely cracked Europe and now even has a permanent home from home in London.
As well as being the home of English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur, its multi-purpose design features the world’s first dividing, retractable football pitch, which reveals a synthetic turf field underneath for NFL London Games.
There has also been games played in Germany in recent years and the sports’ fanbase is only growing every year. Whilst talks of a Super Bowl outside of the US are somewhat quiet, it is a real possibility at least. NFL lines currently have the Philadelphia Eagles as favorites heading into Super Bowl LVII.
Such popularity has seen the NFL become an incredibly profitable and lucrative sport. Maybe the biggest reason for this is the league’s television and brand deals. The NFL groups its revenue streams into two categories: national revenue and local revenue. National revenue includes the aforementioned TV deals along with merchandising and licensing contracts.
These are negotiated by the league itself. In 2021, the NFL made $9.8 billion in national revenue. Whilst this is a drop from the previous season, it is still extremely impressive when you take into account that the league was running through a pandemic. The NFL is the most watched sport in the nation and is an absolute dream for advertisers. Three hours plus of television with just one hour plus stoppages of actual play time leaves a more than generous amount of time for ads.
NFL games are consistently the highest-rated shows on TV, so media companies like Fox and NBC are more than happy to part with eye-watering amounts of money for broadcasting rights. The NFL currently has TV deals in place with the likes of Amazon, CBS, ESPN/ABC, FOX, and NBC running through the 2033 season. In march 2021 it was revealed by CNBC that they could be worth more than $100 billion.
They also make money through merchandising deals with retailers such as Fanatics. This allows them to sell NFL-branded merchandise such as Jerseys, hats, helmets, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Local revenue is money earned by the teams. This can be everything from ticket sales and corporate sponsors to the hot dogs and sodas bought in the stadiums. Before expenses, NFL teams can expect to earn an average of around $10 million per game for a sold-out stadium. Whilst they may not be quite as big a money maker as national revenue streams, they are still just as important in the day-to-day financial running of an NFL team.
Of course, the bigger and more popular the team is, the more money they will earn from local revenue. This is why the Dallas Cowboys are the richest team in the league in quite some way. According to Forbes, they made $800 million in revenue and an operating income of $280 million in 2021.
The revenue the league makes as a whole does have a direct impact on the team and the more it makes, the bigger the benefit. The money made through national revenue is split evenly between all 32 teams and in 2021 that number was around $309 million. Most of this money will go into player salaries.
The future looks bright for the NFL and revenue will likely grow further. TV deals are astronomical and they will have no trouble finding broadcast deals in the immediate future and beyond. In fact, it is only likely to become even more competitive with streaming services entering the sports market as previously mentioned with Amazon having exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football until 2033. This alone is making the NFL $1 billion per season.
The league also made a U-Turn year in the making over the gambling policy. In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to let states determine whether or not to legalize sports gambling. Many have since capitalized on this, seeing the enormous potential of the tax revenues they could generate. The NFL had for a long time argued that they were adamantly opposed to sports gambling, but in 2021 announced it had reached agreements with four gambling retailers to become Approved Sportsbook Operators for the 2021 NFL season. This is yet another money-making avenue for the league.
With big markets opening in Europe and TV rights deals only rising in price, the NFL has very little to worry about when it comes to generating money. As one of the biggest sports in the world, it is no surprise that is one of the most affluent.