Fox has locked up rights to Thursday Night Football for five years, stealing the ball from NBC and CBS and breaking with the NFL’s previous one-year-at-a-time approach to the night’s prime-time rights.
For the broadcast network, the games will be a critical piece of programming as it prepares for life without its studio arm, which is set to migrate to Disney under the terms of the companies’ pending merger.
This fall, Fox will air 11 games, from the fourth through the 15th weeks of the NFL season, with simulcasts on the NFL Network and Fox Deportes in Spanish. The NFL network will carry the seven other Thursday night contests.
CBS and NBC had shared games this season, paying a reported $450 million combined, with Amazon also onboard as a streaming partner. Financial terms were not disclosed, but are believed to be well north of the previous $450M. Digital rights are still available, following successive seasons of Twitter and Amazon streaming 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,” said 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.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has been under pressure to shore up faltering TV ratings, said the Fox arrangement continues the league’s strategy — one that has prompted criticism for over-saturating the airwaves with games.
“This agreement is the culmination of over 10 years of strategic growth around ‘Thursday Night Football,'” Goodell said, “a period during which this property has grown from a handful of late-season games on the NFL Network to a full season of games and one of the most popular shows on broadcast television.”