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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

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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