Jerry Jones changed TV landscape for NFL

On Saturday, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones will be under consideration for selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. From an outsider when he bought the Cowboys in 1989 to one of the most influential owners in all of sports, Jones has had plenty of memorable moments. Throughout the week we will highlight some of the top moments of the Jones era.


With its network partners saying they were losing money on the NFL, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, chairman of the NFL television committee at the time, advocated for teams to give back $308 million in revenue in exchange for a two-year extension of the television contracts.

Jerry Jones fought the idea. Only three years earlier Jones put a record $140 million into buying the Cowboys. He was not about to give money back, despite what the old-guard owners wanted to do.

"We think there will be an economic uptick down the road," Jones said at an owners' meeting in 1992. "It's way too early to make a decision on the contract. The NFL holds up well in recession times."

"I Love Lucy" played a role in Jones' decision. As an investor in Little Rock's KARK, an NBC affiliate, he saw his station pay more for the "Lucy" reruns even if it lost money because it helped bring viewers to other programming that increased the overall profits.

Eventually the owners agreed to a $1 million reduction per team with no extension, but that set the stage for Jones to become one of the league’s heavy hitters, which will surely be part of his candidacy this weekend.

Then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue invited Jones into the contract talks with the television networks, and the NFL found a fledgling network looking to add to its cache. In December 1993, Fox wanted in on football and outbid CBS by more than $100 million a season and the league’s television contract reached $1.1 billion.

The move was risky with CBS holding a relationship with the NFL that dated to the 1950s. It was also Fox’s first big-time sports programming. In 1998, CBS took the AFC games away from NBC, paying $500 million for eight seasons.

Jones was certainly correct on that uptick.

In 2016, the NFL’s television deals reportedly topped $7 billion.

"I’d put it in the top four or five things I’ve ever gotten involved in, because of the importance of revenues in business," Jones told the Dallas Morning News. "And you do know the importance of revenues."