Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is excited about ‘watershed’ NFL media deal

When the Cowboys signed quarterback Dak Prescott to a long-term megadeal, owner Jerry Jones confirmed: The NFL’s looming TV deals were going to be lucrative. 

“If you don’t think that (this) is an indication of where we think the tea leaves are and where the future is,” Jones said, “you’ve misread this today.” 

Jones began to show his cards with Prescott’s four-year, $160 million contract earlier this month. 

Now, with the NFL’s Thursday announcement of media distribution agreements through the 2033 season, the league ensures labor and broadcast stability for more than a decade. Consider Jones buoyant. 

“I think this is really a watershed agreement,” Jones told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “It’s got term with it, and it’s got flexibility built in. You’ve got a pretty excited, creative group of producers in all of those areas, and I’m going to include Amazon in there too, because they’re right on the threshold of how to maximize that aspect of it. 

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is thrilled with the NFL's new media distribution deal. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

“All of the different, imaginative ways we’re going to be able to present our games and present our programming.” 

The league’s new deal reflects the hybrid future of NFL game and highlights distribution. Media partners including CBS, ESPN/ABC and Fox will continue to broadcast traditionally on television. But each will also integrate streaming platforms. Amazon will now have exclusive rights to stream "Thursday Night Football" to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Yes, signing Dak Prescott confirms Jerry Jones belief in NFL’s looming revenue from TV deal.

Jerry: “If you don’t think that’s an indication of the tea leaves, you misread that.”

ESPN+ will exclusively stream the national broadcast of a league international game. CBS (AFC games) and Fox (NFC games) will each continue their television broadcasts but also stream live games on their respective flagship streaming services. NFL Network, involved last season in "Thursday Night Football," will televise select NFL games as well, the league said. 

The nature of game presentation will evolve. 

“If I’ve ever seen someone that’s going to be a continued work in progress as to how we present our games in a fun way, a creative way, this one does it,” Jones said.

“You inject things like gaming in the picture, and we could be doing things in coordination within 12 months that we never dreamed we’d do. This agreement left flexibility, which is good and hard to quantify now economically, so it was quite a document or documents.” 

Jones emphasized the complexity of negotiations that factored in more distribution partners than previous agreements. More games could be flexed to maximize the quality of play on NBC’s "Sunday Night Football" and ESPN’s "Monday Night Football." ABC will join the rotation of Super Bowl broadcasters that already included CBS, Fox and NBC.

Alternate broadcasts – along the lines of Nickelodeon’s Nick-themed playoff game in January, and ESPN’s simulcasts during the college football national championship – will continue to revolutionize how the league engages casual fans and young audiences.

Live games, archival replays and highlights also factored in, Burke Magnus, ESPN's executive VP of original programming and content, said Thursday. “It’s essentially oxygen for ESPN on a 365-day basis to cover the league, cover their stories, promote the game and then pay it off with a nice games package."

It’s a chance for progress that reminds Jones of when Fox joined the NFL broadcast landscape in 1994, a step that significantly altered the future of both network and league. Media revenue revamps football operation revenue. A salary cap that dipped for the first time in a decade is expected to rebound in good health. 

Jerry Jones on closing Dak Prescott deal: “Surely with my gift of gab, and my checkbook, I could talk him into something.”

Stephen Jones: “The latter.”

“Now I’m still excited about having our great stadium and stadium experience, but that right there and how we involved all the streaming and various ways we can do — that’s exciting,” Jones said. “How we use the technology and the interest of our viewers, how we do that is arguably the most exciting thing about presenting our games that I see.” 

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein

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