Under the league's current revenue structure, its $9.5 billion in revenue generated apart from losses would hypothetically generate more than $3.3 billion in tax revenue if taxed at the 35% corporate rate. While Coburn isn't so sure that's what the government would get -- his estimate is more along the lines of $91 million annually for all tax-exempt sports -- any amount the government could get from the NFL would be a huge step toward paying back a significant public investment.
NFL games more than doubled the prime-time viewership of Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC, Digital First Media said. Fox (FOXA), CBS (CBS) and Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC agreed to pay the NFL $28 billion for broadcast rights through 2022. Walt Disney's (DIS) ESPN has a separate $1.9 billion annual deal for Monday night football, while DirecTV (DTV) has a $1 billion per season agreement for the NFL Sunday Ticket package that is set to become even more lucrative once the current contract expires in 2015. Its television revenue is slated to rise from an average of $4 billion a year to $5 billion annually as new contracts kick in. The networks are more than happy to pay, given that 31 of the 32 most-watched television shows in the fall of 2012 were NFL games.
Still, that didn't stop the NFL from blacking out 15 games 2012. That's down from 16 last year and 26 in 2010, but is still impressive, given the NFL tweaked its blackout policy this summer. Under the old rule, which dates back to an act of Congress in 1961, home games couldn't be shown on TV stations that broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the stadium if non-premium tickets weren't completely sold out 72 hours before kickoff. The revised policy allow teams to declare a sellout and keep games on the air once ticket sales hit 85% of their home stadium's capacity.
Even switching up the games it offers on publicly owned airwaves might be just fine if the games it was taking off the air weren't being played in stadiums paid for with public money. A full 30 of the NFL's 31 stadiums have had a portion of their costs paid for with tax dollars. It cost an average of $525 million to cover each of 20 NFL stadiums built since 1997, according to a Minnesota study looking into the likely costs of a new stadium for the Vikings. That study says 56% of those stadium costs -- or roughly $238 million per stadium were paid for with public funds.
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