TV networks seem to be salivating, because the TV rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football are coming up for sale. According to THR, the league is likely to sell the package as a multiyear deal, rather than the one-year deals it has had for the past two season with CBS. Experts predict that such an agreement could go for $600 million a year.
Thanks to the interest of multiple networks, the prospective price tag has skyrocketed. By comparison, CBS Sports’ deals for the past two season have been a bargain. (The network paid $275 million for the eight Thursday games last season and $300 million for the current season’s.) Landing a new contract, however, will be tough, seeing as Fox, NBC, and Turner are all expected to be in contention.
Clearly, networks aren’t fazed by the fact that TNF has a reputation for being the worst night of pro football of the week — to the point that Sports Illustrated recently dedicated an article to how to improve the event. Currently, teams have fewer days to prepare for their matchups, leading to what SI described as “choppy offense, game-changing mental errors, and a wave of criticism from fans watching at home.”
Yet fans are still watching, whatever they may think of the quality of play. Last season, TNF averaged over 12 million viewers a game over its simultaneous telecasts on CBS Sports and NFL Network. The numbers are clearly enticing for networks. THR reports that NBC, for example, is making a TNF deal a “top priority.” The network already pays around $1 billion a year for Sunday Night Football, according to Business Insider.
With the NFL’s other deals for daytime Sunday games, SNF, and Monday Night Football currently running through 2021 and 2022, it seems logical for the TNF deal to have a similar time frame. Dealmaking will begin in January, so we’ll have to wait exactly how this plays out.