So just what are NFL owners and players fighting over? The answer, of course, is money—$9.3 billion in revenue, to be specific. While the league won't divulge exactly how that figure breaks down (a sticking point in the ongoing labor talks), SI and FORTUNE have crunched the numbers to provide an unprecedented look at the game's GFP (gross football product), a figure roughly equal to the GDP of Macedonia.
Annually, the NFL redistributes upwards of $4 billion in radio, TV and digital earnings across its 32 teams—$125 million apiece, plus an equal share for the league—and that number shows no sign of declining. The 19 highest-rated fall TV programs (and 28 of the top 30) were NFL games, and this year's Super Bowl was the most-watched program ever.
$1 BILLION PER YEAR
Plus NFL Sunday Ticket
$1.1 BILLION PER YEAR
From credit cards to cameras, from auto makers to pizza, companies pour money into the league's coffers for the right to associate their brands with the NFL. Among those pouring are Pepsi ($560 million over eight years, starting in 2004) and Gatorade ($45 million a year, plus marketing costs and free Gatorade for teams).
Teams can collect that much for stadium naming rights, usually on 10-year deals. (The largest: Reliant Energy's $10 million-per-year contract with the Texans.) Experts say such pacts may be the way of the past, but at least one exception exists in L.A., where Farmers Insurance promised $700 million over 30 years to name a stadium for a team that doesn't exist yet.
Nike paid that much to land the NFL's apparel sponsorship. Previous partner Reebok had been moving $350 million annually in NFL gear.
In 2010 more than 17 million fans passed through NFL turnstiles, paying anywhere from $54.51 (Browns) to $117.84 (Patriots) for the average game ticket. Though the league won't open its books, numbers for the publicly-held Packers offer some insight (below) into what teams reap at the ticket office and concession stands.
In 2010, Green Bay cleared $60,059,646 from home and away game tickets plus private boxes. Projected over 32 teams, that's close to $2 billion.
FACT: Attendance dropped 0.81% from 2009 to '10.
THE GAME $9.3 BILLION
How lucrative is the NFL? Consider that the league's GFP is not much smaller than the revenues of major league baseball ($6--7 billion), the NBA ($3--4 billion) and the NHL ($1 billion) combined.
$650 MILLION PER YEAR
Paid over four years to be the NFL's wireless provider.
The Packers reaped $13 MILLION from concessions, parking and local media in 2010, which figures to $416 million NFL-wide.
That's how much the league will see in cash from its $1.2 billion, six-year deal with beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch—but teams still cut their own deals when it comes to pouring rights at stadiums.
NFL ON FOX
$712.5 MILLION PER YEAR
$622.5 MILLION PER YEAR
As much as the NFL brings in, its expenses—from labor to operations—are considerable. Below, a look at where most of the money goes
• PLAYER SALARIES
Though teams today are serving up a smaller portion of the revenue pie to players than they were a decade ago, the relief is relative. The percentage of revenue going to player salaries more than doubled from 1980 to 2000:
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
PERCENTAGE OF GROSS REVENUE DEDICATED TO SALARIES
According to a Congressional Research Service report, the league paid $919.6 million in benefits for retired players in 2006 and '07. The NFL says clubs contributed some $388 million in '06 to fund a range of benefits that included a supplemental disability plan, savings plan, an annuity program, group insurance, a health reimbursement account, a severance plan, tuition reimbursement and the 88 Plan, which provides for dementia care. The NFL estimated that '07 costs for these benefits would be $350 million.
NFL teams have erected 11 new homes in the past decade. Here, a breakdown of the financial burden shouldered by owners:
1. Paul Allen, Seahawks
2. Stephen M. Ross, Dolphins
3. Malcolm Glazer, Buccaneers
4. Stan Kroenke, Rams
5. Jerry Jones, Cowboys
6. Arthur M. Blank, Falcons
27. Zygi Wilf, Vikings
28. Al Davis, Raiders
29. John Mara, Giants**
30. Virginia Halas McCaskey, Bears
31. Steve Tisch, Giants**
32. Dan Rooney, Steelers
*Packers not included due to public ownership
**50% Giants owner
Now on SI.com
For more on the league's ongoing labor negotiations, go to SI.com/NFL
"You want to find out exactly what the revenue is and how it's divided up? Probably your only option is to buy a franchise."
NYU Professor of Sports Management
HALO EFFECT: IMPACT IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
Local economic activity generated by a single NFL game. Over eight home games—excluding preseason and playoffs—that's $160 million per year per market and $5.1 billion total earned by peripheral businesses.
Stadium workers who would be affected negatively by a lockout.
Money paid by the public toward the $13.146 billion total construction costs of NFL stadiums built since 1990, an average of $250 million per venue.
MARK J. REBILAS/US PRESSWIRE (STADIUM)
WINSLOW TOWNSON/AP (FAN)
ERICK W. RASCO (BEER)
LANE STEWART (HOT DOG)
TODD ROSENBERG (NEWTON)
KIRBY LEE/US PRESSWIRE (FANS)
PETER READ MILLER (MONTANA)
PETER READ MILLER (STAFFORD)
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (PAYTON)
RICHARD MACKSON (BLEDSOE)