The NFL has had more than its usual share of problems on and off the field this season, but Wednesday brought a reminder that it remains a highly valuable media property.
Fox made the point by agreeing to a five-year deal to carry “Thursday Night Football” that will pay the NFL an average of $550 million per season, according to Sports Business Daily, $100 more than CBS and NBC had been combining to pay.
Fox is to carry 11 “TNF” games between Weeks 4 and 15 — excluding Thanksgiving night — which will be simulcast on the NFL Network.
The NFL will carry seven games exclusively, games also produced by Fox. The NFL Network must carry a certain number of games exclusively to fulfill its contractual obligations to pay TV providers.
Fox’s No. 1 announcing team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman is not expected to work the Thursday games.
CBS and NBC had bid on the Thursday night package, but were outspent by Fox.
The “Thursday” package includes late-season Saturday games.
The Thursday night slate has been controversial among players, who have complained about the toll it takes on them physically, and many have complained about a lesser quality of play.
But Fox’s interest — and the NFL’s payday — illustrate why the package will remain a part of the league’s offerings.
“This agreement is the culmination of over 10 years of strategic growth around ‘Thursday Night Football,’ ” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a news release, “a period during which this property has grown from a handful of late-season games on NFL Network to a full season of games and one of the most popular shows on broadcast television, with additional distribution via cable and digital channels.”
Sports Business Daily said the “Thursday Night Football” package also will be carried on a yet-to-be-named digital platform.