FOX Locks Up ‘Thursday Night Football’


CBS Corp. no longer has to make excuses to marketers and advertisers about lackluster ratings for Thursday Night Football telecasts.

Starting with the 2018 season, that will become the responsibility of 21st Century Fox for the next five years.

Wall Street isn’t too happy with the news: Fox stock was off by 4.1% in Wednesday’s trading, ending the day at $36.90.

Perhaps the devil lies in the details, or in this case its financial agreement with the National Football League.

That’s because Fox’s official announcement confirming it has snagged the rights to Thursday Night Football fails to disclose how much it is paying.

According to Reuters, Fox is shelling out more than $3 billion for the ability to air TNF telecasts through the 2022 NFL season. The news organization quoted an unnamed source “familiar with the situation.”

If Reuters’ report is accurate, Fox will be paying $60 million per game — a rise from the $45 million per game CBS and NBC combined to pay for the 2017 season.

Meanwhile, digital rights for TNF are still up for grabs.

With the deal, FOX Sports will air games each Thursday evening between weeks 4 and 15, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day. NFL Network will continue to simulcast telecasts; Spanish-language coverage will air simultaneously on FOX Deportes.

In addition, NFL Network will exclusively televise seven games next season, with FOX producing the full slate of 18 games.

“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 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “As one of the leaders in sports television and a recognized innovator of NFL game broadcasts for many years, we’re excited to be extending our partnership with FOX Sports, one of our most trusted and valued partners, to include Thursday Night Football.”


Peter Rice, President of 21st Century Fox, added, “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 prime-time games on Thursday night.”

Thursday Night Football sponsorship will be held by Bud Light.

FOX was quick to point out that, despite concerns about falling ratings, Thursday Night Football is a top-5 show in all of television and the No. 2 show in prime-time.

However, data from Standard Media Index indicate that the NFL experienced a 3% year-over-year decline in total revenue during in-season Thursday Night Football games. Additionally, the amount of ADUs (or makegoods) increased by 6% for in-game coverage.

That said, paid unit rates for Thursday Night Football rose 7% in 2017; Thursday Night Football contributes about 20% of the gross ad spend for in-season games, SMI notes.

Thursday Night Football started in 2006 with an eight game schedule exclusively on NFL Network. By 2012, Thursday Night Football had grown to a 13-game schedule exclusively on NFL Network, where it remained through the 2013 season.

For both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, CBS partnered with NFL Network to present an expanded 16-game Thursday Night Football schedule. For both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, NBC and CBS partnered with NFL Network to present Thursday Night Football with additional digital distribution via Twitter (2016 season) and Amazon Prime Video (2017 season).