Ten years ago last week, the NFL’s first Thursday Night Football game was played. On Sunday, after much grumbling about the quality of midweek games and amid lower ratings this season, a report surfaced that the league might bench its experiment. Not so fast, the NFL said today.
The NFL just issued a statement saying, “We are fully committed to Thursday Night Football, and any reports to the contrary are unfounded.” The report in question comes from respected NFL writer Mike Florio, founder of NBC Sports’ ProFootballTalk.com. Citing a source, he says the league will consider “the possibility of ending, or at least limiting, Thursday Night Football.” The current deal for the package shared by CBS and NBC expires after next season; the games also air on the league-owned NFL Network and are streamed on Twitter.
Florio says the league’s options include sidelining the Thursday games outright or perhaps starting the package on Thanksgiving each year and continuing throughout the season, “with games likely to generate broad interest selected in April for November/December programming.”
CBS had split the games with the NFL Network for the previous two seasons. Before that, the package aired only on the league’s cable net. It was created a decade ago to give NFL Network some live games — and to persuade cable providers to offer NFL Network on the basic tier rather than premium packages. CBS in 2014 scooped up two-year rights to Thursday night games for the season half of the NFL season. Broadcast networks saw the potential for high-rated live programming on the night when movie studios heavily advertise their weekend offerings.
But some fans and others complained the extra TNF games — in addition to a full Sunday slate and primetime contests on Sunday and Monday nights — led to oversaturation and noted that, because teams had less time to prepare, the product on the field was not up to par. Add to that this season’s lower ratings for TNF and other NFL games, and it’s no wonder the future of the package was questioned. Post-election ratings have seen improvement, however.
No price tag for this year’s TNF package was announced, but reports say CBS and NBC each would pay $225 million for five games.