PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- The NFL absolutely does not care whether you cut the cord. It gets paid either way.
The beautiful part of the National Football League's business plan is that, with few exceptions, it does everything it can to take everyone's money. Do you watch sports only through the networks? It's charging NBC, CBS and Fox $1 billion a year through 2022 for the broadcast rights to its games, not including the $275 million it took from CBS to broadcast Thursday Night Football this year.
Prefer Monday Night Football? That's costing ESPN $1.9 billion a year. Want as much as you can get in one sitting? DirecTV pays $1 billion a year for exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package of out-of-town games, through that ends next year.
If you really don't want to pay extra fees for cable or satellite television service, however, the NFL is remarkably cool with that too. It has positioned itself in such a way that the overwhelming majority of its games are available without having to subscribe to a single channel. There's a chance you'll miss the occasional NFL Network game here or there, but if it features a team in your market, the NFL is forced to simulcast it on a local affiliate.
The NFL knows that sports make up a huge part of the average monthly cable and satellite bill, and it has no interest in giving the middlemen at the networks anything more than they're already getting. According to media research firm SNL Kagan, sports channels made up $947.6 million – or roughly 17% – of the $5.5 billion multichannel television industry in 1995. By 2012, sports channels took in $15.3 billion – or a whopping 38% -- of the overall $40.3 billion multichannel take. The earning power of the only other category that even came close, general variety channels such as TBS and AMC, grew from $820 million to $5.5 billion over the same span, but dropped from nearly equivalent to sports to roughly a third of that genre's value.
Meanwhile, sports now accounts for nearly two out of every five dollars spent on pay television. Its monthly cost has risen as well. In 1995, the average monthly cable bill was $6.83, $1.17 of which went to sports channels. That's still a hefty 16%, but it lagged behind the $2.82 movie channels charged at the time. Now that $1.17 spent on sports wouldn't even cover 20% of the cost of ESPN alone.
Of the average $34 spent each month on multichannel television, nearly $13 pays for sports channels. That's 38% of the average cable bill, though sports are on only 14 of the average 94 channels offered by multichannel providers. On top of that, Nielsen estimates that only 20% of all multichannel viewing time is spent watching sports. Nobody is making out in that deal.