Everybody loves Thursday Night Football. The Seattle Seahawks absolutely adore Thursday games. Doug Baldwin wishes he could get married to the mere idea of Thursday Night Football. Richard Sherman is such a fan of Thursday Night Football that he wrote an entire column about how much he hates it, with “hate” obviously meaning “can’t get enough of.”
Well there’s great news for Thursday Night Football fans! With the television rights up for grabs, NBC and CBS lost out and the new home for TNF is none other than FOX. They’ve ponied up almost $3 billion over the next five seasons, assuring everyone that Thursday night is FOOTBALL night well into the 2020s.
The new Thursday Night deal for Fox includes 11 games between Weeks 4 and 15 (excluding Thanksgiving night). The games will simulcast on NFL Network and distributed in Spanish on Fox Deportes. There will be no games on FS1. Additionally, the NFL Network will exclusively televise seven games next season, with all games produced by Fox Sports. The NFL still has the digital rights to this package to sell. Amazon was believed to have paid the league $50 million for the rights to stream the TNF broadcast last year.
If Joe Buck and/or Troy Aikman annoy you, then there’s no need to worry, as the new package doesn’t require networks to use their top commentary team. I suppose FOX can use whomever they so choose. Maybe a hologram Pat Summerall can be the play-by-play guy.
In case you’re wondering about TNF’s ratings on NBC and CBS in 2017, they were down from 2016, but also keep in mind that they’re way higher than any other regular season sport would command in primetime on network TV. The problem? NBC and CBS reportedly didn’t make a profit last year.
The viewership for Thursday Night Football has dropped in recent years but the program remains a guaranteed lock to be one in the Top 5 most-watched programs on linear television. CBS’s five game package in 2017 averaged 14.1 million viewers, down 4% from 14.7 million last year. Two years ago, CBS had eight TNF games and averaged 17.6 million viewers. NBC averaged 13.5 million viewers for its five TNF games this year, down 21% from its first season with the package. Both networks reportedly lost money on the package last year.
Rather fittingly, the TNF finale for 2017 was the Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts, two teams who missed the playoffs in 2016 but were thought to be December contenders this season.
For what it’s worth, the Seahawks are 6-1 on Thursday Night Football under Pete Carroll, so you can look at it as one of the many chances Seattle gets to shine on primetime and add to the win column... or just call it a Poopfest.
The NFL schedule will be unveiled in April, so we’ll see which matchups get the Thursday timeslot, and just how many of them will actually remain interesting on paper when next season begins.