The NFL has found another way to monetize its product: it’s offering for sale to TV networks a package of Thursday night games.
“NFL Network has done a tremendous job building Thursday night and will retain games, but we are in discussions to air a part of the package with existing and potentially new broadcast and cable partners,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told John Ourand of SportsBusiness Daily on Sunday.
Adding another night of games would be hugely attractive to TV networks, particularly after, according to the league, ratings showed that 34 of the 35 most-watched TV shows last fall were NFL games (the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was the party-crasher). And adding a prime-time game is just an added bonus. In addition, there should be feverish competition for the package, which could begin as early as next fall, on a TV landscape of bidders that could include Fox Sports 1, NBCSN, Turner Sports and, of course, the omnipotent ESPN. The New York Times reports that the league is looking to sell “six to eight” games. Exactly how would this work? Richard Sandomir of the Times explains:
If the league likes an offer it receives, the winning network will televise the games in the first half of the season, which would ideally give a promotional boost to NFL Network for its later-season games. The league’s preference would probably be a broadcast network like NBC, CBS or Fox, but it would also be pleased if a cable channel got the package. It is conceivable, for example, that ESPN would buy the deal and put the games on ABC, its sibling network in the Walt Disney empire.
The NFL Network first began showing an eight-game package of games in 2006 and expanded it in 2012. Although the network’s Thursday night games averaged 8 million viewers, they still were the most-watched program on cable TV each week.
“We want to accelerate the growth, quality and promotion of Thursday night NFL football,” McCarthy told Ourand. “Bringing on a partner can help us accelerate our success across all the games.”