thursday night football

When Fox acquired rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package earlier this year, one question facing the network was how it would balance its new football slate with its existing World Series rights. Although no World Series game is currently scheduled for a Thursday, John Ourand of Sports Business Daily points out that rainouts during the series could force one or two of those contests to come into conflict with NFL matchups.

How would Fox address that potential TNF-World Series clash? Per Ourand, it would slide the football game to FS1, resulting in an awkward head-to-head between high-profile events on the same family of networks but at the same time, assuring massive ratings for Fox’s cable channel.

With that in mind, this might be a rare example of a TV network rooting for a rainout.  Typically, networks have to pay premium prices to get marquee events on their cable channels (hence why ESPN pays such a hefty sum for a so-so Monday Night Football package), but a World Series rainout or two would let Fox sneak NFL football onto FS1 through a loophole.

Though TNF would obviously draw fewer viewers on FS1 than it would on Fox, carrying an NFL game would mark a major milestone for a five-year-old network that has struggled to find its footing. A TNF game on FS1 would introduce NFL fans to a channel they rarely visit and would result in all sorts of FS1 viewership records that Fox could tout to advertisers and to the public.

So will this actually happen? Well, probably not. Here are the scenarios, as best we can tell, in which TNF would slide to FS1:

  • If Game 1 or 2 of the World Series were rained out, a makeup game would be slated for Thursday, October 25 (which is scheduled as an off-day), shunting Dolphins-Texans off Fox.
  • If Game 6 or 7 were rained out, Game 7 (if necessary) would be played on Thursday, November 1, bumping Raiders-49ers to FS1.
  • In fact, it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which MLB decides to push back Game 7 in the event of any rainout, so as to allow players their scheduled off-days. That would mean that one rainout in Game 2, for example, could result in two games being played on Thursday, if the series were to a full seven games.

Obviously there are a ton of hypotheticals here, and the whole conversation could be moot if the World Series winds up featuring, say, the Dodgers and Angels in warm-weather cities or the Blue Jays and Brewers in retractable-roof stadiums. We’ll check back in on this dynamic come October, if it becomes relevant.

[Sports Business Daily]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.