NFL players voted to OK a final deal today, days after the owners approved a tentative agreement, and the sides finally managed to put an end to the 4 1/2-month lockout, the longest work stoppage in league history.
Thursday’s vote was 31-0, with the Oakland Raiders abstaining from the ratification, which came after a full day of meetings at an Atlanta-area hotel. Players still have to sign off on the deal.
The NFL lockout isn’t over yet, but the end may be near. The two sides are closer to a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement than they’ve been since the lockout began three months ago, following another round of negotiations yesterday. One person told the Associated Press that the lockout should be over in two weeks, or in just the right amount of time to get the players on the field for the preseason, ensuring they will not miss any regular-season games.
Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger on Tuesday said he did not believe the NFL work stoppage would level ESPN’s fourth-quarter ad picture, noting that college football should do much to help take the sting out of a lost pro football campaign.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson granted the players’ request for an injunction to lift the lockout on Monday, ending the NFL’s work stoppage in its 45th day but prompting an immediate notice from the league that it will appeal.
A federal judge has ordered NFL owners and their locked-out players to return to the bargaining table, scheduling both parties to resume talks under the auspices of a court-appointed mediator.
The strong market for broadcast and cable TV networks may get better. They now may have another factor looming in their favor: Billions of ad dollars from NFL programming that may have nowhere to go. Estimates are that the $2.5 billion in TV money that lands on NFL games annually on Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN each fall might need a home. And it could go into primetime and other programming in this June’s upfront market.
Since the National Football League locked out its players about two weeks ago, some cable and broadcast networks have been preparing contingency plans to air alternative programming in case games are canceled this fall. Advertisers, who spend roughly $3 billion a year on commercials that run during NFL games, also are forging new plans and considering buying commercial time on other marquee programming should the work stoppage continue into the football season.
The NFL and the players’ union decided Thursday to keep the current collective bargaining agreement in place for an additional 24 hours so that negotiations can continue.
Fan outrage would be the least of the fallout if a breakdown in negotiations leads to an NFL lockout during the 2011 season. Add up lost TV ad revenue and sponsor activations, canceled fantasy football leagues and websites, empty sports bars and out-of-work stadium personnel and the price tag would be somewhere north of $12 billion.