It truly is amazing how popular the NFL is.

I remember a couple years back when the NFL was negotiating its latest enormous TV deal and some big-shot exec being quoted as essentially saying, "You can't lose money with the NFL."

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I did a little research on that after it was announced Monday that nearly 60 million people watched the Vikings/Saints game, making it the most watched non-Super Bowl program on television since the series finale of "Seinfeld" 12 years ago.

In fact, over the last two weeks, over 100 million people watched the Vikings hammer the Cowboys on Jan. 17 and then give away Sunday night's NFC title game to New Orleans.

So what does is cost to get the most popular and lucrative franchise in television to be played over your airwaves?

Well, for one, the deals are of such significance that they get their own Wikipedia page.

As for the actual dollar amounts here they are:

r ESPN ($8.8 billion)

r FOX ($4.27 billion)

r CBS ($3.73 billion)

r NBC ($3.6 billion)

In all that's over $20 billion, or more than the gross domestic product of countries like: Bahrain, Jordan, Iceland, Iraq (shouldn't that oil be flowing by now?) and Paraguay, just to list a few.

With the NFL, if you're a television network, you can't lose money. And not only that, if you have the NFL you essentially use it as a billboard to pimp all of your other inferior programming. How many "American Idol" promos were rammed down our throat during the Vikings/Saints game Sunday? I wouldn't even want to know.

It certainly makes you wonder why there would ever be a work stoppage, although it's hard to get through a week without someone who really knows -- Peter King, Chris Mortensen, John Clayton -- if not flat-out predicting, then certainly hinting that come the fall of 2011 there will be no football.

There's certainly enough money to go around, that can't be disputed. And the NFL has always seemed too smart to mess with a good thing, unlike their counterparts in baseball, who nearly crippled the sport in the mid 1990s when greedy players and spineless owners couldn't get their stuff together and just do the right thing.

To this day, baseball TV ratings have not recovered. Last year's World Series -- which included the Yankees, of course -- drew 116 million viewers, but they needed six games to do so, whereas on Sunday the AFC and NFC championship games drew nearly 105 million sets of eyeballs in the span of about 6 hours.

Of course these things do take a little bit of luck. It helps to have the right teams, close games and all of that.

But from week to week, the NFL always seems to deliver. And it doesn't matter if your team is based out of New York, Minnesota, Green Bay, Boston, Arizona or St. Louis. Everybody has a shot.

If only they could find a way for it to last all year long. Because with the NFL, there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at