It could have been worse, but last night’s unexpected flurry of football deals dealt another blow in a series of disappointments for pigskin fans who also happen to be cable subs. Besides the ballyhooed broadcast deals for CBS and Fox, the league re-upped with DirecTV, which inked a $3.5bln, 5-yr pact that continues satellite’s exclusive rights to the subscription "NFL Sunday Ticket" package through the ’10 season. It appears no MSO was willing to part with such a huge wad of dough for the all-inclusive package. (Comcast has countered "Sunday Ticket" with its "NFL On-Demand" download highlights service, the op’s top-rated VOD product since being introduced last month.) All told, at approximately $700mln/year —or $434/sub—DirecTV’s bill is up considerably from 2 years ago, when its NFL carriage cost it about $130mln annually. Ten years ago, that figure was $10mln. — The rumored Thurs/Sat late-season cable entry that’s been bandied about remains a possibility, as likely suitor NBC Uni (USA) and Viacom (Spike) are said to be in contention. ESPN/ABC Sports have yet to be heard from, although pres George Bodenheimer said Mon the "intent is to retain the Monday and Sunday night packages, and [the nets] will continue our ongoing conversations toward that end." — The NFL’s extension of broadcast rights for CBS and FOX to air Sun afternoon games through ’11 is worth a record $8bln. The new deal begins with the ’06 season; each net has rights to 2 Super Bowls.

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C-band Auction Concludes

The C-band auction officially came to a close Friday after 97 rounds of bidding that grossed just under $81bln, cementing its place as the highest-grossing spectrum auction held in the US. FCC chairman Ajit

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