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FOX Lands The Thursday Night Football Rights

Jason Barrett

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After a report late Tuesday night by Bloomberg stating 21st Century Fox Inc. was closing in on a contract for the rights to broadcast “Thursday Night Football,” it became official Wednesday morning. The five-year deal lasting through 2022 is reportedly worth over $3 billion.

The terms have not been released by Fox or the NFL, but according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Fox will pay $660 million annually for to broadcast 11 “Thursday Night Football” games from week four through 15, not including Thanksgiving. The contract equates to over $60 million per game, a more than 30% increase from the $45 million CBS and NBC paid the last two seasons.

The NFL, which had previously worked on shorter term deals to maximize market value, showed more of a commitment to Fox with the agreed five-year contract.

“We feel very confident in their ability to continue to grow this franchise,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on a Wednesday morning conference call.

For Fox, the decision to invest in “Thursday Night Football” is an interesting reversal based on comments made by CEO James Murdoch in November.

Regarding the NFL oversaturating its product, Murdoch stated, “I do think the proliferation of Thursday availability, and the proliferation of football generally, does mean that you’re asking a lot from customers to watch Thursday. And then they watch a lot more college football games on Saturdays, and then on Sundays, and then on Monday Night Football, etc. It’s a lot. So I do think that preserving the scarcity value of those events and that audience is something that is worth thinking about.”

With the planned sale of $52.4 billion in Fox assets to the Walt Disney Company, Fox is expected to continue pursuing large sports broadcast partnerships. After agreeing to pay 30% more than rival networks CBS and NBC did the last two seasons, Fox’s stock dipped 4% today, showing some investors question the long-term health of the NFL. Despite the league’s continued ratings decline and “Thursday Night Football” being the least appealing NFL game package, it remains a proven commodity, providing a boost to the network’s prime-time schedule.

A new digital partner for “Thursday Night Football” has not been announced yet, but according to Goodell a deal will be completed within the next couple of weeks. Last season, Amazon paid the league $50 million for the rights to stream 11 games, which is five times the amount Twitter paid the previous year.

Questions of which broadcast team will do the games and will they air on the Fox Broadcast Network or their national sports networks FS1 and FS2 remain to be seen. John Ourand reported Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are unlikely to do the “Thursday Night Football” broadcast. Buck would be unavailable for a number of games because of his Major League Baseball playoff responsibilities.

Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis, being the network’s NFL “B Team,” would be the likely choice to broadcast “TNF.” However, that can also get in the way of Fox’s MLB playoff studio coverage, which Burkhardt hosts.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

PGA Tour Expects Mic’d Players To Be Common For 2023 TV Broadcasts

“This doesn’t need to be a walk and talk like I did. But we can make it what you want it to be.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Following the success with Max Homa last weekend, the PGA Tour is planning to mic a player up this weekend at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

According to Sports Business Journal, the Tour is considering micing up a player on either the 14th or 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

“The point of this is that if you want it to just be, they have an air pod on your caddie and they ask him one question, he could elaborate on something,” Homa said in an interview on the podcast No Laying Up. “That would be an improvement. This doesn’t need to be a walk and talk like I did. But we can make it what you want it to be.”

Homa added that he appreciated that the questions he was asked while taking part in the segment were solely on the task at hand and tackling the hole he was on.

“It wasn’t about how it is being a dad, how it is being in contention, it’s about golf,” he said. “This hole. That’s what we wanted it to be.”

CBS received positive reviews for debuting the new segment in their season debut at Torrey Pines last week.

It will be interesting to see if having players mic’d up for a segment will carry into NBC coverage or if it remains exclusively CBS. Have to think that in April at The Masters, if CBS keeps with it, the segment has the potential to be pretty compelling especially if the interview is with a player in contention or even leading.

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Sports TV News

ABC Scores Most Watched NBA Saturday Primetime Game In 4 Years

“The game drew 3.7 million viewers.”

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The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. While the game’s controversial finish left LeBron James and Patrick Beverly upset, executives at the Walt Disney Company had nothing but smiles thanks to the performance of ABC.

The game drew 3.7 million viewers. That means the Celtics’ win is the most-watched game in the ABC Saturday night prime-time window in the last four years. A February 2019 game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors drew 4.1 million.

Boston also delivered the highest-rated game of the NBA season so far outside of the league’s stacked Christmas Day slate.

NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC is experiencing a nice uptick in viewership this season. Through the weekend, the Saturday night games are averaging over 3.4 million viewers according to an ESPN press release.

That number represents a 16% jump from last season. The edition of NBA Countdown that airs before the Saturday night game is having a good season as well. It’s average audience is up 3% to just under 1.5 million.

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NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.

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Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.

ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.

The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.

At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.

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