FOX has outbid CBS and NBC for the rights to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” package, which will give the network a sizable ratings boost in fall 2018 and have implications for both its own schedule and the networks losing the rights.
According to Sports Business Daily, FOX bid $550 million per year through 2022 for the “TNF” rights, significantly more than the combined $450 million CBS and NBC paid in 2016 and ’17. FOX and the NFL formally announced the deal Wednesday morning.
The deal gives FOX the rights to 11 Thursday games per season (excluding Thanksgiving night), starting in week 4 (typically the first week of October). FOX’s games will be simulcast on NFL Network, which will also air seven exclusive “TNF” games.
“Football is in our blood at FOX, and we understand that nothing beats the NFL when it comes to television that captures people’s attention,” says Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox. “Our historic relationship with the NFL dates back to the earliest days of FOX, and we couldn’t be more excited to expand our deep and enduring partnership to include primetime games on Thursday night.”
The deal will carry well past the network’s separation from its sister studio, 20th Century Fox TV, which is being sold to Disney in a deal expected to go through late this year or in 2019. It also means that at least for the fall each season, FOX will have only 13 hours of primetime to fill instead of 15. (“Gotham” and “The Orville” made up the network’s Thursday lineup in 2017.)
CBS and NBC, meanwhile, will almost certainly suffer ratings declines next fall without “Thursday Night Football.” Although ratings for Thursday games were down in 2017, “TNF” still had better numbers by a wide margin than any non-sports programming on either network.
From a practical standpoint, it means CBS can keep “The Big Bang Theory” in its Thursday home all season rather than airing it on Monday nights for the first month or so of the season. NBC will be able to schedule its Thursday lineup through the entire fall rather than putting shows on a two-month hiatus in early November.