NFL Thursday Night Football Coming to Fox

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NFL Thursday Night Football Coming to Fox

The forever-moving Thursday Night Football package, with multiple short-term marriages over the years, has found a new domestic partner: Fox Sports. The new deal, which reportedly tops the combined $450 million that CBS and NBC paid previous year, calls for 11 games spanning Weeks 4-15 (excluding Thanksgiving night) to be broadcast on Fox, simulcast via NFL Network, and distributed in Spanish on Fox Deportes.

The news was first reported on Tuesday night John Ourand of the Sports Business Daily and Bloomberg News.

Fox will broadcast 11 Thursday night games in 2018 as part of a deal that runs through the 2022 season. Fox will broadcast 11 games from Weeks 4 to 15, with those contests being simulcast on the NFL Network. There will be no games on FS1. NFL games, as the league commissioner Roger Goodell pointed out earlier this month, represented 37 of the top 50 broadcasts of all types in 2017, according to Nielsen.

Fox Sports is also expanding its digital rights, which includes broadcasting games from mobile devices.

Fox notes in its release that this is the fifth broadcast deal between the network and the National Football League, which dates back to the original 1993 deal.

A general view of a Fox Sports camera operator in action during a game between the Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions on October 8, 2017, at Ford Field in Detroit.

Why is Fox interested?

Given that "New Fox" will be a much smaller company after the pending $52.4B deal with Disney, shelling out for rights could have a "disproportionate impact on earnings" at Fox, Nathanson wrote.

"The NFL is going to see an erosion, a further erosion in their ratings and their revenue", said Sean Hannity, for one, calling into Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" last fall.

Both NBC and ESPN had the most watched shows in every single week (in terms of audience and in all key male demographics) for every Sunday Night and Monday Night Football game this season.

By no means is this a slam-dunk for Fox.

That notion that a strong primetime programming slate can somewhat compensate for no football was seemingly confirmed by CBS's statement regarding the loss of Thursday night games. Fox now pays $1.1 billion per year to broadcast NFC games on Sundays through 2022. Two years ago, CBS had eight TNF games and averaged 17.6 million viewers. The network credits this deal as the moment Fox became a "major broadcast network".

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