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NFL announces new broadcast agreement with media partners, ABC returns to Super Bowl rotation

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor’s note: Welcome Stan Taylor to the Field Gulls team! He’s the Good Guy at Sports and now he’s formally one of our writers)

As of Thursday afternoon, the NFL has reached a new 10-year broadcast deal with partners NBC, ESPN/ABC, CBS, FOX, and Amazon. The agreement is set to take effect in 2023 and run through the 2033 season. It includes a 7-year ‘opt out’ clause, which would be just in time for the 2030 season.

A couple really big pieces of news are coming out of this deal that will impact viewers. First, Amazon Prime will now have exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football. Starting in 2017, Amazon began to simulcast Thursday night games on Prime, and is now slated to be the provider of the NFL’s first totally digital TV package. For those of you who were as concerned as I was at reading this, don’t worry: you should still be able to watch Seahawks games on Thursdays without going Prime.

Also, per The Athletic, ABC is now back in the Super Bowl rotation after a long hiatus. Two future Super Bowls will be played on the network, with the first set to air in 2026. The last time ABC broadcast the championship game was a memorable one for Seahawks fans: Super Bowl XL, where Seattle met (and eventually fell to) the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Hawks’ first appearance in the big game would be the last time ABC would show a Super Bowl for 20 years.

The broadcast deals will remain mostly unchanged for the other networks, with a few significant differences for ESPN. Per Adam Schefter,

Previously, the NFL would only flex Sunday evening and afternoon games. With the new agreement, the NFL now has the option to flex games to Monday night starting in Week 12 in an effort to show meaningful matchups to fans, according to Camryn Justice of News 5 Cleveland.

The deal, reportedly worth more than $100 billion, is likely to have long-term salary cap implications:

Per Grant Gordon of NFL.com, the NFL Network will still retain the rights to air certain exclusive games each year.

The new agreement also paves the way for the 17-game schedule, starting as early as 2021, with the option to push back to a future season. Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported that the NFL ratified a formula for scheduling a 17th game last December. Essentially, fans can expect an interconference match-up between NFC and AFC teams based on divisional standings from the previous season. The league’s 20-game schedule would not be altered, as the preseason would be shortened to three games in this format. Stay tuned for more to be announced on this topic when the NFL releases its schedule in mid-May.