After watching NBC and CBS share the last two seasons, it appears as though FOX will get Thursday Night Football all to itself.
Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick and Lucas Shaw originally reported the deal was close on Tuesday night, and if it goes through, it will take the Thursday night showcase away from CBS and NBC (which has broadcasted TNF since 2014 and 2016, respectively). See update below.
Following up on the matter, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal tweeted that FOX will have 11 Thursday Night Games, which will be shared with NFL Network and a digital partner (think Amazon) to be announced/named later. Ourand also reports Joe Buck and Troy Aikman aren’t likely to announce Thursday’s games in addition to their duties as FOX’s No. 1 broadcast team on Sundays.
It is also rumored to cost more than the $45 million per game NBC and CBS paid in 2017. FOX’s hope, it seems, is that fans are still interested enough to turn into games, and in turn, boost the network’s primetime ratings. The authors of the Bloomberg piece noted NFL ratings were down 9.7 percent in 2017, so perhaps FOX has an idea of how to counter sagging interest as it gets set to invest more than $495 million in a product that has been increasingly criticized in recent years.
For what it’s worth, players have been at the front of the line speaking out against Thursday games. Bills guard Richie Incognito told ESPN’s Mike Rodak “they suck” back in November. And in December 2016, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman wrote a post at The Players’ Tribune titled “Why I Hate Thursday Night Football” and less than a year later suffered a season-ending injury while playing a Thursday night game.
Sherman’s teammate Doug Baldwin put it more succinctly, but still drove the point home:
Full Doug Baldwin on Thursday-after-Sunday games: "This shit should be illegal. It is not OK. It’s not OK. You can quote me on that," Baldwin said of Thursday-after-Sunday games. This is not OK.” #Seahawks
— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) November 10, 2017
Thursday Night Football seems to be profitable for the league and its networks, but at the cost of the players that provide the product. So while one part of the story looks to be just about wrapped up, how this impacts the players who play the game is still to be determined.
UPDATE: It sounds like it’s happening for the next five seasons, starting next year (also, MY WORD on that cost/game):
NFL reached an agreement with FOX Sports to broadcast the next five seasons of Thursday Night Football beginning with the 2018 season – at $660 million per year.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 31, 2018