According to a Bloomberg report, FOX is attempting to acquire the broadcast rights to Thursday Night Football.
Some expected FOX, who retained their broadcast network along with national cable channels FS1 and FS2, to invest in sports programming following the sale of its regional networks to Disney. FOX submitted a bid to the NFL offering both its broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 as a potential home for Thursday Night Football according to Bloomberg.
In November, Fox CEO James Murdoch, speaking at the Paley International Council Summit, alluded to the NFL possibly oversaturating its product. “I do think the proliferation of Thursday availability, and the proliferation of football generally, does mean that you’re asking a lot from customers to watch Thursday. And then they watch a lot more college football games on Saturdays, and then on Sundays, and then on Monday Night Football, etc. It’s a lot. So I do think that preserving the scarcity value of those events and that audience is something that is worth thinking about,” said Murdoch.
If Murdoch believes Thursday Night Football is bad for the NFL, it would be an interesting about face to see FOX invest in the product.
Earlier in the week it was reported Disney was making a play for Thursday Night Football which could see the NFL return to ABC for the first time since 2005. The NFL is also accepting bids from digital companies who could potentially stream Thursday Night Football exclusively online. Tech giants such as Facebook and Amazon have shown a desire to invest in live sports content and have the money to do so.
“The league is going to make a watershed decision on whether to go for money or for distribution,” said Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports via the Bloomberg report. “With conventional networks like NBC or CBS you’re talking about distribution that’s reasonably guaranteed.”
Amazon paid the NFL $50 million to live stream 11 games this season, drawing a small percentage of the audience CBS and NBC did, which spent $45 million per game to broadcast Thursday Night Football. If the higher bid comes from a digital company, the NFL might be willing to sacrifice viewership for a larger dollar amount.
While the league’s television ratings decline remains a concern, the Thursday Night Football package (the least appealing primetime package) garnering as much interest as it has from broadcast networks and digital media companies is a sign that the NFL’s future is healthy.