Thursday Night Football‘s days on CBS and NBC are over … at least for the next five years. With the networks’ two-year deal expiring, rivals such as ABC and 21st Century Fox began bidding for the opportunity to offer TNF‘s new home. After weighing its options, the NFL announced Wednesday, January 31, that Fox Sports will broadcast the coveted package. The deal is for five years and is worth more than $3.3 billion, according to ESPN.
Although the NFL’s regular season ratings were down 9.7 percent during the 2017 season, games were still watched by an average of 14.9 million viewers, per ESPN. The viewership remains large enough to command huge contracts, and in fact, Fox’s Thursday Night Football deal is reportedly much larger than CBS and NBC’s before it. In 2016 and 2017, the networks each paid $45 million per game, which pales compared to the $60-plus million Fox is reportedly set to pay. That said, Fox’s deal includes expanded digital highlight rights and the company will partner with the NFL in selling the upcoming season’s streaming rights. Twitter and Amazon have each previously streamed Thursday games.
As Variety pointed out, 21st Century Fox’s live programming is depleted after the sale to Disney, so Thursday Night Football makes for a key addition. The media company seems happy with the deal it has struck, pricey though it may be.
“NFL football continues to be the most valuable commodity in all of media,” 21st Century Fox President Peter Rice said.
Although Thursday Night Football is valuable, the games remain controversial. Many players have been vocal in criticizing TNF, arguing that it gives them less time to recover and prepare for games compared to their usual Sunday schedule. (Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, for example, has publicly called it a “poopfest.”) NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell somewhat addressed their concerns in a conference call Wednesday, saying that the league will work with the NFL Players Association “to make the shorter week more attractive in a way that is better for our players.”
Fox will continue to broadcast Sunday games on top of Thursday ones. The network is under contract through the 2022 season to the tune of $1.1 billion per year.
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