As it tries to build a Thursday television franchise, the National Football League might pull out the simulcast out of its playbook.
The NFL sent out a request for proposal offering a package of Thursday night games to its partners and other networks who might be interested being in the football business. One proposal is to air the games both on the NFL Network, where they ran last season, and on another broadcast or cable outlet for one year, according to people familiar with what the NFL is discussing.
The object of the simulcast would be to more deeply ingrain a Thursday night football viewing habit into viewers. Last season, Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network, which has 72 million subscribers, averaged 6.74 million viewers, up 4.7% from the year ago. Factoring in viewing on over-the-air strations in the participating clubs' DMAs, the contests averaged 8 million watchers, up 10% from the 2012 campaign.
Either way, those deliveries trailed the 21.75 million viewers who tuned in to watch Sunday Night Football on NBC. It also trailed the 13.68 million viewers who watched Monday Night Football on ESPN. Fox’s Sunday afternoon games drew 21.12 million viewers and CBS had 18.63 million viewers.
A simulcast would added to the promotion of Thursday and create a greater opportunity for viewers to find the games. The NFL would add the ratings on NFL Network with those on the second channel to get a number closer to what it gets on the other, more established channels. With that number in hand, the NFL would be able to get a much higher license fee when sells an exclusive package of games on Thursday night.
The NFL, which is expecting to receive bids by week's end, is also expected to keep at least seven games on the NFL Network, in order to comply with the carriage deals it has with cable operators and other distributors.
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