NFL Exec Brian Rolapp Expects Paramount And Other Legacy Rights Holders To Stay Afloat Through 2033 End Of Current Deal: “We’re Not Worried About Any Insolvency Risk”

Despite the rigors of the ongoing transition from linear TV to streaming, NFL Chief Media & Business Officer Brian Rolapp expects traditional media partners like Fox, NBCUniversal, Disney and Paramount to remain viable for years to come.

“We’re not worried about any insolvency risk,” Rolapp said when asked about Paramount and other rights holders whose NFL deals last through 2033. “Even if you look at Paramount and dive into it, there’s no risk in our view of them being a going concern. I think they’re dealing with what every content distribution company in the world is dealing with, including the digital players, of how to adjust to a much different world.”

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Rolapp delivered the comments during the Washington Post‘s Futurist Summit, which was streamed online. There has been chatter in financial circles recently about the sizable payments to the NFL that could test Paramount’s already less-than-top-shelf ratings with major credit agencies. The CBS parent’s controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, has been fielding offers for her interest in the company or for some or all of Paramount Global, with its pay-TV assets seen as a complicating factor in those discussions.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Disney or Paramount or Google, for that matter,” Rolapp said. “All partners of ours, I think they’re all figuring out how to shift their business model in this new world. They’re just coming at it from two very different places.”

Rolapp didn’t sound persuaded by the planned sports streaming bundled service announced last month by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros Discovery. The offering, expected to launch this fall, caused an initial stir but as the news has fully been digested its impact seems likely to be less sweeping than some observers had initially made it seem.

“We were a little surprised by it,” Rolapp said. “The press loved to talk about how surprised we were. We were a bit surprised but I don’t think it affects anything we do. It’s interesting. They’re positioning it as the ultimate sports bundle but it’s missing more than half of NFL football” because NBCU and CBS parent Paramount are not part of the venture.

“I don’t understand how a sports fan’s going to look at that and say that’s better value than, say, for another $20 a month I could buy YouTube TV and have all of the NFL and actually have access to Sunday Ticket,” Rolapp continued. “I’m a bit confused personally by the value proposition. They clearly see something maybe that we don’t at the time. But I do know our partners, which we do like, are leaning in and trying to figure out this new world. You can’t say that’s not a bold step. It certainly is. That will probably have ramifications a bit in the pay-TV world. But we’ll have to see how it plays out.”

Asked about the returns on the league’s investments in streaming, with Amazon’s Prime Video taking over Thursday Night Football and Peacock hosting a playoff game, Rolapp said the league was “happy with the results.”

He said the NFL’s strategic emphasis on the kind of reach made possible by broadcast TV or a “ubiquitous” platform like Amazon has been “one of the secrets of the success” of the league. “We have turned down through the years many opportunities to place our games on platforms that are much less-distributed than broadcast television, for more money, and we’ve always said no to it because reach is important.”

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