Broadcasters who make part of their living covering the National Football League may want to start making contingency plans for next year – the owners of the 32 NFL franchises are stocking up with cash in order to withstand a lengthy work stoppage if necessary.
Teams have already saved $10M apiece in money that formerly went into non-cash compensation for players which disappeared as an obligation with the expiration of the team salary cap back in March. The league is also holding back pooled revenue payments that normally would to the teams in the amount of $18M each, meaning each team has contributed $28M to the lock-out fund for a league total of just under $900M.
Broadcasters are also required to pay for rights whether or not games are played in 2011, although eventually that cash will have to be paid back by the league with interest.
Observers see the warchest as a message to the players, who on average have a limited amount of time to play in the league and may not be willing to gamble with the calendar when the owners have the wherewithal to endure a prolonged battle.
RBR-TVBR observation: Broadcasters with a serious investment in NFL programming of one type or another may find themselves with a big hole in the schedule, but should also have a great deal of warning – this should start taking shape soon after the current season is in the record books.
It is not too early to start kicking around some what-if scenarios, however. And that goes for broadcasters who have no interest in the NFL whatsoever. This could be a golden opportunity to steal some audience, at least for the duration of any labor strife.