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.