While countless outlets have been reporting the NFL's declining ratings in 2017, no one can deny the fact that the organization is still the medium's most-watched entity. As such, networks are quite content with spending extravagant amounts of money to air games, and the League's critically maligned Thursday Night Football was once again at the center of a financial bidding war. But it's now official that NBC and CBS have lost the rights to mid-week games, with Fox Sports signing a ridiculously expensive deal with the NFL to air TNF games through the 2022 season.
The money Fox Sports will pay for Thursday Night Football skews far higher than the $45 million that CBS and NBC paid for each game they aired in the 2017-2018 season. Fox is reportedly paying out more than $60 million game in this new deal, according to ESPN, which will allow the network to broadcast games from Week 4 through Week 15, giving them one more contest than the ten-game total that was split between CBS and NBC last year. So if you put that all together, Fox is shelling out around $660 million a year for this deal, meaning the NFL will get $3.3 billion or so by the time this deal is through.
Considering Fox has been partnered with the NFL for Sunday afternoon games since 1994, it's not particularly surprising that the network is investing in even more football action, even though Thursday Night Football hasn't seemingly been a major goal for Fox before now. And even with nearly 10% of the NFL's audience tuning out in 2017. But with the Fox brand currently facing an impending buyout from Disney, it appears the network's execs want to keep pushing for the biggest live sports it can acquire before audiences tune out entirely. That would certainly help to keep the Fox Sports brand afloat once Disney takes over FX and the 20th Century Fox studios (among other things).
Fox acquiring exclusive access to Thursday Night Football could make things a little easier for audiences who aren't current with all the behind-the-scenes wheelings and dealings. Rather than having to flip through different networks checking to see if the games are playing on NBC, CBS or neither -- which would then require a turn to NFL Network, where all TNF games air -- they can just count on one network carrying each week's broadcasts for the next five years.
Everyone's opinions will vary, but I happen to like Fox's energetic telecasts more than those of other networks, so in that respect, I'm fully down with Thursday Night Football going there in the future. Those are generally the least exciting and least important games of the week, so they need as much manufactured enthusiasm as possible. That aspect could always change though, should Fox attempt to garner more spotlight contests. Also, the NFL might look completely different in 5 years, if concussion protocols and other assorted issues continue spearheading conversations.
We'll hopefully hear more about any impending Thursday Night Football changes soon, but until then, we're waiting to see what happens with Super Bowl LII, which will air on Sunday, February 4, at 6:30 p.m. ET. And to see what kinds of non-sports programming will hit the small screen soon, head to our midseason premiere schedule.