How does the NFL make its income?

American Football may not be one of the most widely played sports on the planet, but the NFL’s popularity reaches far and wide. And whilst people may be aware that franchises in the NFL and their players earn a lot of money, they may not be aware of how the NFL itself generates an income.

That’s why we thought we’d take a look at some of the ways in which the NFL generates revenue, that they use for paying on prize money and other such expenses. But first, let’s debunk some rumours.

Rumours you may have heard

So, there are a fair few rumours about how the NFL makes their money, all of which, are factually incorrect. Or at least we hope they are anyway. Firstly, many believe the NFL are in the business of selling drugs.

We’re not talking about the performance-enhancing kind either, we’re talking hard, Class A drugs like cocaine and heroin. And whilst this may be profitable, to do it on the scale the NFL would have to generate their income would be almost un-hideable from the IRS and other federal agencies.

There have also been rumours of match-fixing in the past. That they actually back their own NFL betting lines knowing the results that will happen, ensuring they can make money. But there are two issues to debunk this rumour. Firstly, it’s against the rules, and again if the IRS investigated, they’d find evidence of this.


Secondly, whilst the system may be slightly corrupt, in the way the Associated Press selects rankings for US sports which can be biased, picking its own winners doesn’t serve any agenda for the NFL, as they want it to be as competitive as possible to ensure fans are entertained.


But again, they’re all rumours. So let’s get on to the real ways in which the NFL generates its income.



Selling TV Rights

One of the biggest generators of revenue for the NFL is selling rights to air games to various networks and streaming platforms. They have a few main packages that they sell; Thursday Night Football, Friday Night Football, and Sunday Night Football. These tend to be the primetime games and the ones that draw in the biggest audiences. So they often get sold to those with the most money.

Then you have the smaller local games, which will go to more local networks or be made available to watch on the NFL app, which we’ll go into more details about shortly. But essentially, yeah, they sell the rights to games in order to generate revenue.

And just to show how much they can make from these TV rights, DirecTV who are owned by AT&T currently have the rights for the Sunday Ticket, these are the prime time NFL games available on Sundays. They currently pay around $1.5 billion a year to air these games and are contracted to do so until the end of the 2022 season. Which they’ll likely end soon because this deal has actually been a loss-maker for DirecTV and hasn’t had the impact they hoped it would to grow their customer base.

The official NFL App

This is a free app, and if you download it on the likes of Apple TV or other devices, you can get free access to full-match replays as soon as the game’s end, plus other exclusive content. But you can also purchase the NFL Game Pass in-app, which will open up a whole new world to fans of the NFL.

You’ll be able to watch a whole bunch of games for free, including primetime games, and even more access to exclusive content than you get on the free app. And that too is a big earner for the NFL because there is no need to purchase separate subscriptions from other services, you can just give your money to one service and get almost everything you could ever need.



Merchandise and Licensing

It’s not the biggest earner for the NFL, that would be from their TV rights discussed above, but merchandise still brings in the pennies. They have a lot available on their own official website, and they also sign deals with the likes of Nike and other manufacturers who pay to create products. The manufacturers usually offer up a fee, and a percentage of sales as well.  But in reality, this will earn them nowhere near as much as some of the other areas in which they generate revenue.


There are probably plenty of other ways in which the NFL make their money, but these are some of the biggest earners for them. And remember, that rumours section, they’re just that. Created by conspiracy theorists who have nothing better to do with their time than creating wild stories. There may be suspicious deals now and then, but the majority of it is definitely made through legal business deals which end up being disclosed for public scrutiny to show the NFL has nothing to hide, and also brag about how much money they make and how popular the sport is.

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