There could be more Thursday Night Football on the horizon

If you have been an avid follower of this site, you know that we at Awful Announcing are not fans of the NFL Network Thursday Night Football package. The games are usually sloppy and the matchups aren't as attractive as Sunday or Monday contests after a full week of rest.

Still, the National Football League wants to build Thursday night into a destination for fans. However, the ratings have yet to generate big numbers for the NFL Network. Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that he was pleased with the ratings growth for Thursday Night Football, but you know he would like higher viewership numbers. According to the Wall Street Journal, the league is considering adding a second game to Thursday night creating a doubleheader and potentially getting more interest in the package.

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"The process is still in the preliminary phase, (a) person familiar with the league’s strategy said. Executives have discussed the issue with media outlets but the league isn’t shopping a specific package and no formal offers have been received, the person said.

"Adding another several hours of football on Thursday nights would have significant implications in the TV industry. Thursdays have historically been a big night for advertisers like auto makers and movie studios looking to promote weekend openings. As a result broadcast networks put some of their best shows on that night."

Now here's where it gets interesting. The NFL could keep the current 13 games on its own network, then sell a second package of contests to another network. The conventional wisdom is that the NFL could sell the second package of Thursday night games to a cable sports network, get CBS, Fox, NBC and Turner to bid against each other and gain a lot of cash in the process. 

But Matthew Futterman and Shalini Ramachandran of the Journal add a tidbit to potentially throw some fear into the traditional TV networks. 

"Potential buyers of the games would likely be national cable sports networks. But league officials have also considered selling the Thursday night package to a nontraditional media partner, including online players like Netflix Inc. or Google Inc., the person said.

"The league believes it can work with a new entrant just as it did in the 1990s when it joined with with satellite television provider DirecTV to create NFL Sunday Ticket, which gave subscribers the ability to view every NFL game throughout the season rather than limiting them to games in their market and those that are nationally televised…."

There's that Google threat again. Does it seem familiar? It should. Back in August, we told you that the NFL was talking to Google about distributing the NFL Sunday Ticket package. Mentioning Google strikes fear into the TV networks as losing the NFL to an online provider would be a big blow to all the nets which are trying to expand their cable sports portfolios.

So there are four things we have learned. 

1) The NFL is thinking about expanding the Thursday Night Football package.
2) The league is looking to add another revenue stream either through traditional media or an online provider.
3) The NFLPA will likely be furious about asking teams to play even more Thursday games on short rest than they already are.
4) This story is not going to go away anytime soon.

An extra Thursday night game would have to come from CBS and Fox and you know neither network would be happy to be paying beaucoup bucks for a smaller Sunday afternoon inventory. This story is in the infancy stage. Stay tuned for upcoming developments. 

UPDATE, 10/16/13, 11:30 a.m.: NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tweeted a denial to the Wall Street Journal story and the league offered this statement to Pro Football Talk: 

"We have not discussed or considered a doubleheader on Thursday night"

[Wall Street Journal via Pro Football Talk]

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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