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CBS pays $4 billion for broadcast rights to AFC

SHARE CBS pays $4 billion for broadcast rights to AFC

When the NFL's version of musical chairs ends, either NBC or ABC will be left without a seat in the broadcast booth.

CBS made sure it wouldn't be the odd network out again, buying its way back into the NFL on Monday night with a stunning $4 billion, eight-year deal to televise the AFC package formerly held by NBC, a source told The Associated Press. The CBS deal more than doubles the rate per season that NBC paid in 1997.Earlier Monday, Fox and the NFL settled on a $4.4 billion, eight-year contract that allows the network to keep the Sunday afternoon NFC deal.

TNT and ESPN are expected to retain their Sunday night cable packages but at close to double the price. ESPN paid $524 million and TNT paid $496 million in the previous deal.

That leaves "Monday Night Football," which ABC has held since its inception in 1970. But NBC, which also has been broadcasting NFL games for 28 years, has made a bid to challenge ABC for the Monday night package, said a source familiar with the negotiations

In 1993, ABC paid $920 million over four years for "Monday Night Football," a 2 percent increase over the previous four-year deal. It will cost much more to keep it this time, maybe more than double the previous price. A contract could be reached as early as Tuesday.

ABC and NBC each has one game left in the current contract - the Super Bowl on NBC on Jan. 25 and ABC's Pro Bowl coverage on Feb. 1. The network that loses out on "Monday Night Football" will be out of the NFL for at least five years.

If NBC wins the bidding war, the No. 1 network in prime time would get another night of dominance at a crucial time for the network. NBC's Thursday night schedule for next fall is unsettled, with "Seinfeld" ending production and the contract for "ER" expiring at the end of this season.

From a football standpoint, the new contract will result in an increase in the salary cap - likely in the area of $10 million per team.