Fox, NFL Confirm New Five-Year Thursday Night Deal

Package includes expanded digital rights

Fox said its new five-year deal to broadcast the National Football League’s Thursday Night Football package includes expanded digital rights.

Fox will pay a reported $550 million a year on average for 11 games a season over the five-year agreement.

CBS and NBC had paid a combined $450 million for 10 games for the past two years. Those networks lost $30 million a game, or $300 million this past season, according to figures from analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson Research that were confirmed by industry insiders.

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In bidding to keep the Thursday night package, NBC and CBS bid less money than they’d paid the past two years.

Because it's paying more, TV sports executives expect Fox to take a bigger loss.

With Fox parent 21st Century Fox selling cable and studio assets to The Walt Disney Co., it becomes a smaller company and needed to make a big statement about how its will retain its vitality as it focuses on live sports and news.

But rival networks point out that because the Thursday night games are simulcast on The NFL Network and will be streamed by a company still to be named, they are not as effective a bargaining chip with cable operators and other distributors. Nor are they particularly popular with affiliates.

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Fox’s Thursday night games will be played between weeks 4 and 15 of the regular season, excluding Thanksgiving night. They will also be distributed on Fox Deportes. Fox’s new digital rights enable the network to distribute both Thursday Night Football and its Sunday games to Fox subscribers over an array of digital platforms including mobile phones for the first time.

The agreement also allows the NFL to further develop digital distribution models for Thursday Night Football as well as Fox’s Sunday games, the league and network said.

“Football is in our blood at Fox and we understand that nothing beats the NFL when it comes to television that captures people’s attention,” said Rice. “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 primetime games on Thursday night.”