Starting with the 2018-19 season, Fox Sports will broadcast the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package in a five-year deal said to be worth $660 million per year, according to ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell. Fox snagged the deal out from under CBS and NBC, who had been splitting the league’s package of Thursday games over the past two years.
Under the new deal, Fox will pay approximately $60 million per game. CBS paid $37.5 million per game for eight games during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. In the past two seasons, CBS and NBC split ten games at a cost of $45 million per game, according to ESPN. The games are already being billed as Thursday Night Football Presented by Bud Light, so Budweiser is likely already on board to subsidize some of that cost.
Meanwhile, while the cost of football is going up, ratings are going down as distribution spreads across multiple platforms, including streaming. This regular season, NFL ratings were down almost 10 percent, following an eight percent drop last year. Still, that reflects the overall fragmentation of the television marketplace, with the NFL claiming 20 of the 30 highest-rated shows on television in 2017.
“This agreement is the culmination of over 10 years of strategic growth around Thursday Night Football, a period during which this property has grown from a handful of late season games on NFL Network to a full season of games and one of the most popular shows on broadcast television with additional distribution via cable and digital channels,” said Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner in a statement.
Fox Sports will produce all 18 Thursday night games. Fox will air the 11 games between weeks 4 and 15, excluding Thanksgiving, and they will also be simulcast on the NFL Network and distributed in Spanish on Fox Deportes. NFL Network will exclusively televise the remaining seven games.
As part of the agreement, Fox Sports and the NFL both will expand their digital rights. Fox will have the ability to distribute both its Thursday and Sunday football games to Fox subscribers over a wide array of digital platforms, including mobile phones for the first time. It also allows the NFL flexibility to further develop digital distribution models for its games.
Streaming rights for Thursday Night Football will be sold in the next couple of weeks, in partnership with Fox, said ESPN. In 2017, Amazon Prime paid $50 million to stream those games, up from $40 million paid by Twitter in 2016.
The deal comes at an interesting time for Fox, with Disney’s $52.4 billion acquisition pending that will see both Fox and Fox Sports separated from much of the rest of 21st Century Fox, including the TV studio and the Fox regional sports networks.
Fox has a long history with the NFL, having built the original network around acquiring rights to NFC games in 1994. Fox currently pays $1.1 billion annually for those games and has secured that deal through the 2022 season.
“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 21 Century Fox Chairman Peter Rice in a statement. “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.”
READ MORE: ESPN