With the NFL trying to get the players to take less per dollar in the hopes of getting more total dollars and with the players reluctant to grow the pie by growing the regular season, we’ve been mentioning two primary commitments that the players should be requesting: (1) a certain date for the NFL to return to Los Angeles; and (2) discontinuation of the late-season Thursday night regular-season games on NFL Network, with the games instead being sold to the highest bidder.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the latter will be part of a new labor deal.
Specifically, Mort reports that a 16-week Thursday night TV package will developed, starting in 2012. To maximize revenue, the package will be sold on the open market.
We’ve previously heard whispers that the eight-game NFLN package could have generated more than $500 million. A 16-game Thursday night package could be worth $1 billion.
If the network that gets the Thursday night package already has a TV deal in place with the NFL, don’t be surprised if the acquisition of the new asset includes an extension of the current arrangement.
The development is bad news for NFL Network, which will become far less attractive to cable operators without regular-season NFL football. That said, the NFL could reserve some late-season Saturday night games for NFLN.
Still, if the goal is to grow the pie, the players should want any and all nationally-televised games to be sold to networks that are willing to pay more for the rights than they ever will realize in advertising revenue and/or subscriber fees.
UPDATE: We’re already hearing scuttlebutt that perhaps NFLN would keep the late-season portion of the Thursday package, with only the first eight Thursdays being sold. Though more money can be realized via the sale of all games, the players need to realize that they have an interest in NFL Network becoming more and more viable and relevant. It’s a great vehicle for marketing the game and the individual players who routinely appear on Total Access. Actually, the best way to split the package would be on a bi-weekly basis, with NFLN getting a game every other Thursday. This would cause viewers who have easy access to the outside network to clamor for the in-house network, in order to fully enjoy their new Thursday night habit.
SECOND UPDATE: ESPN has revised Mort’s report to explain that the Thursday night package would be launched in 2014, the first year of the next TV deals. This makes sense, because televising Thursday night games before the annual launch of the NFLN package would require games to be taken away from CBS and/or FOX.