Thursday Night Football CBS

Despite grumbles from players, coaches, fans and TV executives about its various drawbacks, Thursday Night Football will return in 2018, Sports Business Daily reports.

Per SBD’s John Ourand, the NFL is currently soliciting bids from networks on next year’s TNF package.

The NFL has told media companies that they have to submit bids for the “Thursday Night Football” package by early January. Yesterday, the league sent media companies interested in bidding on the package RFP documents that show that the NFL is open to making changes to the package, which has been the focus of complaints by fans, players and TV execs. For this cycle, TV nets are encouraged to bid on the entire package, which would include streaming rights. The league’s RFP offers the possibility that a digital company could buy the entire package, which has never happened with the NFL before. That could lead to a scenario where a company like Amazon would produce the games and sell them to affiliates in the local markets.

Thursday Night Football has taken hits from across the NFL world this fall. Players and coaches complain that the games don’t afford them ample time to rest and recover from their previous contests, viewers grouse that if the athletes aren’t sharp the quality of play dips, and TV executives fret that TNF has contributed to football over-saturation and, as a result, declining ratings. Some of those execs have reportedly asked the NFL to reduce the TNF package.

According to SBD, the NFL may still make “significant changes” to the TNF package, such as reducing the number of games (currently at 18) or moving more games off Thursday night. Those changes could appease some TNF critics but likely would not silence opposition to the series.

As SBD notes, it will be interesting to see who bids on TNF, including whether Amazon or another streaming company enters the fray not only for simulcast rights (as Amazon held this year and Twitter possessed in the past) but also potentially for exclusive rights.

Thursday Night Football has aired since 2006 on NFL Network and since 2014 on network TV. Though the series has been somewhat of a disappointment both in terms of reaping revenue for networks and according to popular opinion, it’s still the NFL, which means someone will pay a hefty sum for the right to air it – even if viewership isn’t what it was two years ago.

[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.

  • Stone Gossardish

    Let’s make it easy for the NFL. Opening week, then every other Thr until the 2nd to last week. There you go, solved.

    A better alternative would be opening Thr, Every other Friday till Thanksgiving, then every other Thr until the 2nd to last week.

    See, not too hard, NFL. Now, send me a check.

    • Yosef Mordechai Coleman

      not legal to televise NFL football games on friday or saturday until the 2nd week of december within 75 miles of a high school or college campus.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_Broadcasting_Act_of_1961

      • Stone Gossardish

        At this time, yes. But the most popular form of entertainment in the US can change those things if they want.

        Player safety suggests one day is a major diff. So let’s more TNF to FNF and make it every other week, basically.

      • Walt_Gekko

        Actually, it’s the third week in December. It was changed after 9/11 because the second weekend in December is held in reserve in case an incident forces an entire week of college football to be postponed a week as it was in 2001.

        • danderson600

          I wonder if ABC schedules infomercials just in case an incident forces an entire week of college football to be postponed a week as it was in 2001. The infomercials are easy to drop if necessary

          • danderson600

            Is it possible that President Trump could try to have the part of the law that makes it illegal to televise NFL football games on Friday or Saturday until the 2nd week of December within 75 miles of a high school or college campuses ellimated?

    • Walt_Gekko

      What the NFL should do as noted in my other comment is add a second bye week tied to mid-week games.

      • Stone Gossardish

        Could not agree more that the NFL needs a 2nd bye week. Bingo

  • sportsfan365

    The NFL is never going to admit they have a problem with TNF. Don’t forget, this is a league that thinks re-signing Roger Goodell was a good idea.

  • Walt_Gekko

    The easiest remedy for this is for the NFL to add an 18th week to the season:

    1. Have the season start one week earlier, since it would be really difficult to move the Super Bowl back especially since every four years you would have to move the season up anyway due to the Winter Olympics (except in the rare instance the Olympics are in the Southern Hemisphere, this would have been one of those years where the season would have had to be moved up). Since it’s well-known the NFL moved back the start of the season in 2001 by one week to get it away from Labor Day Weekend, I would have it where the first week, everybody plays a mid-week game as follows:

    The season-opening game is on the Tuesday before Labor Day on NBC with kickoff at 8:40 PM ET.

    CBS (on Wednesday) and FOX (on Thursday) get a regional doubleheader with the first game kicking off at 7:30 and the second game kicking at 10:55 PM, with as few cross-country matchups as possible in Week 1. Yes, it would mean games on Wednesday and Thursday would be running past 2:00 AM ET, but this probably is the best way to do it.

    There would be no games Labor Day Weekend nor does ESPN get a game in Week 1.

    2. The second week has ESPN getting its season-opening doubleheader to open Week 2 on the Wednesday after Labor Day, with games at 7:00 and 10:25 PM ET AND a single game on Monday to finish Week 2 with the normal 8:30 PM ET start. NBC gets a Week 2 Thursday game in addition to its first Sunday night game of the year with both of those having an 8:30 PM ET kickoff. Since all teams would play mid-week in Week 1, teams playing these games would at worst be playing the Wednesday games the same as coming off a Monday nighter in a normal week.

    3. Week 3 would have the Thursday night game (the first NFL Network-based Thursday Nighter) be between teams that played either Wednesday or Thursday in Week 2. This also would begin the process of teams having a bye week before a Thursday nighter or other mid-week games. Weeks 4-11 would pretty much follow the same pattern.

    4. Week 12 (as Week 13 being Thanksgiving) would see a thin Sunday schedule those weeks as there would be a total of five mid-week games: The three games on Thanksgiving Day & Night plus two new ones: A Thanksgiving EVE game that would kick off that Wednesday at 8:25 PM ET (and would alternate between CBS and FOX, with whoever has the early game on Thanksgiving Day having this game) and the other being a new London game on “Black Friday” at 2:00 PM Eastern Time (7:00 PM in London). All teams playing these games to start Week 13 would have a bye week in front of it.

    5. Week 14 would have a prime time game on Wednesday in addition to Thursday as the new Wednesday game would be tied to the Christmas tree lighting in Rockerfeller Plaza that is traditionally the Wednesday after Thanksgiving. This game would usually be hosted by the Jets or Giants at Met Life Stadium. Teams playing that game would be coming off a bye while teams playing the Thursday game that week would be playing on Thanksgiving.

    6. The Week 15 Thursday Night game would have teams that played between the Wednesday and Thursday games if possible to avoid having to have teams come off a bye week.

    7. Weeks 16 and 17 would have the Thursday night games be between teams that had a bye ahead of it in Weeks 15 and 16.

    8. Week 18 would have it so it’s more like how the final day of the season is done in Europe (and more recently, MLB and the NBA), which also would eliminate the final Sunday night game (which the new Wednesday-after-Thanksgiving game would replace). In this format, all games in a conference would be played at the same time, with all games airing simultaneously on ALL of the NFL’s broadcast partners and cable outlets where needed. One conference would have all of its games kick off at 3:00 PM ET and the other conference would kick at 7:00 PM ET, with:

    NBC getting the #1 game in each slot
    CBS/FOX splitting the #2-3 games
    ESPN/ABC splitting the #4-5 games (ABC would be used on this, with the ESPN games also airing on the DT-2 Channels of ABC stations)
    NFL Network getting the #6 game (that would also air on COZI TV, NBC’s DT-2 Channel
    DT-2 outlets for CBS (Decades) and FOX (Movies or Buzzr) would get the #7-8 games in each slot. These games would also air on cable outlets owned by CBS and FOX.

    That’s how you not only add an 18th week to the season, but you keep the Super Bowl where it is (again, due to where the Olympics are every four years) and make it so the last week all games in each conference take place at the same time AND make it so teams are playing mid-week games off a bye week or normal rest in normal circumstances.

    • Yosef Mordechai Coleman

      never going to happen but a nice idea. i like it

      • Walt_Gekko

        After there being no Sunday night game the final week of the year and the wild finishes of Week 17, I suspect the NFL will go to something like what I have here, doing it so all games in a conference are at the same time. One stumbling block might be some local authorities in cold weather cities not wanting games kicking off at 7:00 PM ET as I would have ALL games in one of the conferences kick at.

    • Shawn Diiorio

      Or maybe no TNF at all. Use it as a negotiation to get players to stop kneeling before the anthem. There I had a valid counter point, took 2 minutes, and didn’t have to read your book.

    • Dale Moog

      This would NEVER EVER HAPPEN and you think the fans are pisssed now and do not watch this is crap and NO network would bid on it.

    • Mike

      I counted “would” 34 times. This has as much possibility of happening as a Horse Race of the Week on network TV that you’ve been advocating…zero. Belmont putting up lights is a start though

  • 66pugs99

    The fix to Thursday night football is pretty clear if you want it. Add a second off week. The NFL can brag about they are thinking of player safety, and every Thursday night football game can be played with at least 10 days of rest. Two of many bonuses the networks get an extra week of content, and the NFL gets to own Christmas away from the NBA.

    • kelly

      thursday night would be great. Just give the teams a bye the previous Sunday

  • JWJ

    Here are some numbers I have calculated regarding Thu night football. ONLY broadcast network games used (so excluding any NFLN only games).
    Cost per game to the networks over the last 4 years: $34.4M; $37.5M; $45.0M; $45.0M
    Avg number of viewers per game across the 8 (or 10) games in the season over the last 4 years: 16.3M; 17.5M; 15.9M; 14.1M

    Linked to story has this “The package has been a money-loser for the broadcast nets, failing to bring in the ad revenue they were expecting.”

    Does anyone know the math on how the networks are losing money? Cause the ad fee for 30 seconds is about $500K to $600K for TNF. Figure about an hour of commercials, so 120 30-second spots, leads to gross revenue of $60M to $70M per game. If the network is paying the NFL $45M per game, that should lead to gross profit of at least $15M per game. The cost to broadcast one game can’t be more than $1M, can it?
    Does the network have to share that advertising revenue with local affiliates? How are the networks losing money on TNF?

    • Dale Moog

      many of the breaks are local breaks where the local stations sell the ads. more like 90-95 ads per game then you take the ads where the networks are promoting the upcoming shows this is like 10 or so that leaves more like 80 ads plus it cost far more than 1 mil per game that just covers the talent cost with studio and game site talent making millions per year. they lose 10’s of mil a year at that price

      • JWJ

        Thanks for the information.

  • Dale Moog

    Move the Thursday games to Tuesday start the week on Sunday then have 3 straight nights of primetime games with the week ending on Tuesday you could start Tuesday games in week 2 with the kickoff game on Thursday and the Tuesday games from week 2-15 if you played on Sunday then next week play on Tuesday you got an extra day but the next week you have a two day short week. everything balances out. but you have longer short weeks to recover than you do now and you do not get the advantage of a longer off week if you played on Thursday.