We spend a lot of our time here at Awful Announcing making fun of Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network. Everyone should own up that taking Fox or CBS' C/D game each week and putting it in primetime doesn't make you an event. These games are probably made even worse by being played on Thursday, and in most cases after three days off for each team.
That said… like everything else in the NFL, it is a ratings winner. Even when NFL Network broadcast Bills-Browns during the MLB Playoffs and college football… the NFL won, like it always does. You can literally just put anything with the NFL brand behind it and it will win, seemingly no matter what.
A chance for an NFL Network loss on Thursday seems legitimate this week, however. It's a packed sports calendar, and it all figures to be more entertaining than the network's Vikings-DC Football Club tilt, but will it draw better ratings? Let's look at each individual program.
NFL Network: Minnesota vs. Washington
Washington maybe has a chance at making the playoffs, but only because the NFC East is pathetic. The Vikings are straight up bad. They are big markets, however. The least-watched game of the season is Bucs-Panthers with 4.6 million viewers. I think it'll top that, easily, and still manage to be in the 5-6 million viewer range.
TNT: Clippers vs. Heat, Rockets vs. Lakers
A pretty decent doubleheader for TNT, but you have to remember: Knicks-Bulls last Thursday couldn't crack three million viewers for the knowers of drama. While the idea of Lob City taking on the Big 3 and Dwight Howard returning to LA might boost ratings a little bit, I can't see either game hitting more than 3.5 million, especially given the competition.
ESPN: Oregon vs. Stanford
Two top five programs meet on ESPN, which usually maxes out at around two million viewers. However, given that this is a special Thursday night game with #3 playing #5 in the rankings, I bet this one comes close to 3 or 4 million, and ABC weeps over not having it for Saturday night.
Fox Sports 1: Oklahoma vs. Baylor
FS1 hasn't gotten too far past a million viewers for anything not UFC related so far, but this is certainly one of their most important broadcasts so far. A battle of two top ten teams out of the Big 12 will probably at least hit a season high for the network. That said, it still won't be able to come close to what Stanford and Oregon will do on ESPN because of the lack of awareness of the network at this early stage. 1.5 million viewers, perhaps?
So, our thesis suggests that no, nothing can kill the monster that is the NFL. Sure, when you combine all of the sporting events happening Thursday night they'll beat the NFL in combined viewership. But it's going to be hard for one of them to beat the NFL head to head. If any sporting event has a shot, it's Oregon-Stanford on ESPN if it's close and exciting till the end. Sill though, the NFL's dominance on television is like nothing else in sports, and it should win the night again.
But hey, at least The Big Bang Theory and The Voice will beat it overall on broadcast? Meh, that's not doing it for me, either.