The National Football League is flexing its muscles in negotiations with TV networks over the renewal of Thursday night telecasts, not only seeking a sizable rights fees increase but also pushing multiple broadcasters to split the package and agree to potentially onerous scheduling conditions.
Unlike the previous two seasons when CBS has shared a package of Thursday games with the league-owned NFL Network, the league now wants to divide the contests between two broadcast networks as well as the NFL Network, which has several games to itself in addition to carrying all the games that air on broadcast.
CBS and NBC are in the lead to reach an agreement with the NFL to share the Thursday night package of games, people familiar with the matter said.
Under the scenario being discussed, CBS and NBC would each carry five Thursday games this fall. The games would be simulcast on the league-owned NFL Network, which would carry the remaining Thursday night matchups exclusively. The price tag for the 10 games may be as much as $600 million, said a person familiar with the matter. This past fall, CBS paid $300 million for the rights to eight games.
By dividing the package between two broadcast networks, the NFL is betting that the demand for its product is so great that it can sell two smaller sets of games and make more money. Based on the current talks, that wager may pay off. It is just the latest example of how networks are willing to pay more and more for sports rights that command big live audiences, even as they contend with pressure on revenue in the coming years from cord-cutting.
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