Fox Lands TV Rights Deal for NFL's Thursday Night Football Games

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2018

A Thursday Night Football logo is seen on the back of a cameraman before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Fox has agreed to a five-year deal with the NFL to broadcast Thursday Night Football

The NFL announced the move Wednesday, per ESPN's Darren Rovell, who reported the pact is worth an "average of more than $660 million a year." Per the agreement, Fox will broadcast 11 games each season from Week 4 to Week 15.

Rovell also noted Fox will pay the NFL an average of $1.75 billion each year for the Thursday night and NFC packages through the 2022 season.

Sports Business Journal's John Ourand originally reported Fox would pay approximately $550 million annually through 2022 to carry 11 games per season along with NFL Network and an undisclosed digital partner. 

Amazon paid the NFL $50 million to stream Thursday Night Football in 2017 after Twitter earned the digital rights in 2016 for $40 million. 

Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick and Lucas Shaw reported Fox had competition from NBC and CBS—who paid a combined $450 million a year to air TNF games each of the past two seasonsbut noted "their enthusiasm has waned with NFL ratings down 9.7 percent this past regular season."

ESPN, which owns the rights to Monday Night Football through 2021, did not submit a bid, per Ourand. 

Fox has yet to announce which broadcasters will call the TNF games, but Ourand reported Wednesday that  Joe Buck and Troy Aikman—the network's No. 1 broadcast team—"will not be in the booth."

That move indicates a shift in NFL policy after the league required CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo) and NBC (Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth) to use its top talent for the TNF broadcasts in 2017. 

On the whole, the news isn't likely to sit well with players—especially those who have lashed out publicly at the NFL because of safety concerns. 

Chief among them has been Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who authored a piece for The Players' Tribune in December 2016 titled, "Why I Hate Thursday Night Football." Incidentally, Sherman tore his Achilles in November during a Thursday night tilt against the Arizona Cardinals. 

"Thursday Night Football is just another example of the NFL's hypocrisy: The league will continue a practice that diminishes the on-field product and endangers its players, but as long as the dollars keep rolling in, it couldn't care less," Sherman wrote.

To Sherman's point, ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert relayed new evidence that shows injuries occurred at higher frequencies during Thursday night games than those played on Sunday or Monday this past season: 

"This s--t should be illegal," Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin said, per the News Tribune's Gregg Bell. "It is not OK. It's not OK. You can quote me on that."

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has joined Sherman and Baldwin in the growing chorus of detractors. 

"Do you understand what guys' bodies go through in a game? And then to have to turn around four days later and to play?" Brees said in December, per the Times-Picayune's Josh Katzenstein. "Look at the injury studies: They're off the charts. They're off the charts. So is this smart as it pertains to guys' health and safety? No, absolutely not." 

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