Fox Tackles Thursday Night Football Package: Report

Fox Broadcasting has won the bidding for the National Football League’s Thursday Night Football package, outbidding CBS and NBC, which broadcast the games this season, according to a published report.

Fox has agreed to pay about $550 million per year through the 2022 season, according to Sports Business Journal. The network will get 11 games. They will be simulcast on the NFL network and a digital partner the league has yet to select.

That’s an increase from the $450 million combined that CBS and NBC paid. Even at that price leve, both networks were reportedly losing money broadcasting the games. Analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson Research estimates each network lost about $30 million for each game it broadcast. Nathanson added that the league's ratings appear to be in a "structural decline" that could affect both the league and the television business going forward.

Related: NFL Viewing in 'Structural Decline', Analyst Says

Fox’s parent, 21st Century Fox has agreed to sell most of its cable and TV studio assets, leaving it to focus on live news and sports programming and the NFL is TV’s highest rated programming.

But during the past two seasons, NFL ratings have been down and this season the ad revenue generated by the NFL also declined, according to figures from Standard Media Index.

21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch this season pointed to the oversaturation of NFL games as one reason why viewership has been declining.  

Other complaints about the league have been that games are too long, that there are too many long commercial breaks and that official replay make the rules seem too complicated for casual viewers.

The NFL has also been caught in political controversy because of players not standing for the National Anthem that has sparked criticism from President Trump.

Vince McMahon last week announced he would be relaunching the XFL, another professional football league that he said would be more fan friendly, a faster game and would avoid political controversy.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.