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Sunday, July 14, 2024

NFL Will Dip Its Toes in Private Equity by Year’s End

  • Goodell says the league is likely to cap private equity involvement in teams at 10%.
  • Commissioner strikes a similarly measured tone regarding streaming and the Paramount-Skydance merger.
Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the crowd during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is continuing its slow road to introducing private equity into team ownership—but only to a point. 

Speaking Thursday on CNBC while attending the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, commissioner Roger Goodell (above) said the league is still on track to formally approve PE investment by the end of the year, as has been long expected. But Goodell said NFL owners will likely cap that investment at 10% of a team’s equity, a figure that also has been frequently discussed. 

“We believe that would be something that could make sense for us in a limited fashion,” Goodell said. “That would be something we think could complement our ownership and support our ownership policies.”

The 10% threshold remains below those in other leagues—such as the NBA, NHL, and MLB—that go as high as 30% for private equity involvement, and could ultimately prove insufficient to help address franchise values that are now soaring beyond $6 billion in some cases. But Goodell said it’s critical to not just mirror what other properties are doing in this space.

“We’re not other leagues. We’re going to do what’s right for the National Football League,” he said. “We like our ownership policies and think this is a complement.”

Key Issues

Goodell also addressed a range of other pressing league issues in the CNBC interview. Among them:

  • NFL Sunday Ticket: The league is seeking to overturn the $4.7 billion verdict against it that could be tripled to more than $14 billion, and Goodell said the NFL remains steadfast in its position. “We obviously disagree with the jury verdict, and we are committed to following the legal process. It’s a long process. We’re aware of that, but we feel very strongly about our position, our policies, particularly in media.”
  • Netflix: Goodell said the league’s new, three-year pact with the streaming platform for Christmas games does not signal an abandonment of a foundational priority of placing games on free, over-the-air television. “I think we’re going where the fans are,” he said. “Netflix has close to 300 million subscribers on a global basis, which was really attractive for us in being able to reach that global fan. International is a huge initiative of ours.”
  • Paramount: The commissioner was noncommittal about how the NFL would respond to the Paramount Global–Skydance Media merger deal, worth more than $8 billion and involving longtime league media partner CBS Sports. The league has an option to renegotiate its rights deal with CBS Sports in the event of a change in ownership. Goodell called the network a “great partner,” and declined to say whether the option would be exercised.

“We’re obviously paying close attention to the process,” he said. “We know Skydance. They’ve done a terrific job with our relationship. So we’ll look at the structure of the deal. We’ll see how it impacts us. We’ll see how it impacts our business, and we’ll make the best decision for the NFL at that point.”

Goodell added that reach is just as much a key driver in that situation as economics, even as the NBA is helping reset the market for live-sports rights with its developing national-rights deals

“We want to be paid fairly, but for us, it’s about reaching fans, and being on a free platform like we are [on CBS] allows our fans to see that,” he said. “I think that’s what led to not only the popularity of the league, but obviously the great ratings.”

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