A lot of people do not care for Thursday Night Football. You can count me among them. There are a number of valid criticisms about the mid-week game, which has a tendency to provide the home team with an added advantage, since the visiting team has even less time to prepare for the game, but it will not be going anywhere any time soon.
Except, that is, to Fox, which just won a bid to broadcast the games for the next five seasons. According to reports, the annual payout from the network will come in at around $550 million per year, so this is a deal that is approaching $3 billion in total.
The deal includes 11 games per season, from Week Four through Week 15, with the exception of the Thanksgiving broadcasts, and the games will also be presented on the league’s own network as a simulcast, but Fox Sports will be the producer of all Thursday games.
In addition to the aforementioned exclusions, the deal with Fox is also absent digital rights. Last season, Amazon was the high bidder, awarded a $50 million contract to stream the Thursday games via their Prime service. That deal will presumably be up to the highest bidder once again.
One interesting thing to note, according to Sports Illustrated, is that Fox will have the leeway to use their own broadcasters, which could include Gus Johnson, who tends to be a fan favorite and is particularly known for his work in broadcasting college games.
The aforementioned Sports Illustrated article also notes that “there is a belief among sports media watchers that the NFL will provide a more attractive Thursday Night schedule for Fox given the financial outlay”, but adds, “we shall see on that”.
One would imagine that the NFL should be interested in doing more to strengthen both the reputation and the viewership of its mid-week product, especially if they have any intentions of adding games on additional days in the future, which has been kicked around in the past.
With Fox now broadcasting Thursday Night Football, logically, that means that CBS and NBC will not. While they released statements saying that they “made a competitive bid”, they also added that they are “very pleased to return to entertainment programming on television’s biggest night”.
Fox has just the opposite intention, with a desire to move further away from scripted programming and shifting more toward live sporting events and news-based content, according to the article.
The joint deal between CBS, NBC, and the NFL was valued at the same price per season as the current Fox deal, with each network chipping in $225 million, but for one network to foot the entire bill is obviously a substantial step.