More details on the Thursday night package

The biggest news to come out of Tuesday’s ownership meeting in Chicago was, in our assessment, Chris Mortensen’s report that the new CBA will include a 16-game Thursday night TV package.  (The other items of significance, like the 48-cent share for players, four years to free agency, and a minimum cash spend in excess of 90 percent of the salary cap arguably are as important, but none was unexpected.)  Though Commissioner Roger Goodell downplayed the Thursday night package in remarks to the media — and ESPN softened it from “will” to “could” — it seems inevitable that the pie will be grown via the sale of Thursday night prime-time pro football.

Howard Balzer of and The Sports Xchange is among those who believe the Thursday night package is part of the puzzle, and he has provided some numbers that make it even more likely that, in time, the NFL’s evening habit will extend to a third night each week.

Given that the addition of two games was expected to add $500 million per year, Balzer points out that the Thursday night package could do even more, without adding a single game.  With ESPN reportedly poised to spend close to $2 billion per year for Monday Night Football, a full-season Thursday night package could be worth at least $1 billion annually.  And even if, as many believe, half of the Thursday night package would be retained by NFL Network, the $500 million from the two extra regular-season games would come from the Thursday night games.

Balzer also raises a point that ESPN later clarified.  With the current TV contracts in place until 2013, the earliest date for the implementation of the Thursday night package could be 2014, given that the games will come from the CBS and FOX Sunday afternoon inventory.  To get the deal done before 2014, the CBS and FOX contracts would have to be reopened and extended, like they were in 2009 when the NFL expanded the Red Zone concept from DirecTV to cable (and also beefed up the “lockout insurance” language).

Put simply, if the league wants to implement a full slate of Thursday night games by 2012, it can be done.  And it would result in the commencement of a significant cash infusion, a couple of years before the new TV deals were expected to be done.

34 responses to “More details on the Thursday night package

  1. I’ll leave the competitive balance/bye week/fairness aspects out of this and just say that as a fan of football in general I love the Thursday night games… something to get me through the week and tide me over until Sunday.

  2. If this means the NFL is finally going to step up to the plate and get its network on all the cable packages, I’m all for it. Otherwise, this just translates into weaker Sunday slates for me and at least half the country.

  3. How would this pressure time warner – Arent there already 8 games on NFL net on Thursday? There were at least 4 right?

    I wouldnt know, I cant get the network – So its out of sight out of mind….

  4. Thursday night football will take MNF’s spot over if it extends to a full season. Thursday night is a better night to stay up late. Bars are generally starting to get crowded on Thursdays. Bettors will have licked their wounds for 3 days. MNF will start to feel like those 11pm west coast college games ESPN broadcasts.

  5. Another thing to consider: usually these Thursday games are poor match ups.

    If you want good games on thursday they have to come from somewhere, and there are only so many marquee matchups.

    I could see the other networks wanting a discount on their packages if Thursday takes away too many good games.

    Otherwise look for more stinkers on Thursday.

  6. antalicus says: Jun 22, 2011 12:16 PM

    Yea, why don’t they make a package for Friday and Saturday?
    high school and college football ?

  7. Ugh, I get sick of the whining about not having NFL Network. Either switch to a carrier who has it, and quit your whining, or stay without it and quit your whining. Either way, quit your whining!

    As for Thursday night games, more football > less football, so bring it on!

  8. Yea, why don’t they make a package for Friday and Saturday?

    Because as a firewall to anti-trust suits, the NFL leaves Friday for high school & Saturday for college.

    Besides there are only a maximum of 16 games a week. You start taking away Sunday afternoon tilts and the value of that package shrinks.

  9. They schedule the primetime games in April, way before the season even starts, so there is no way to know with any certainty which will be the good matchups in October, November and December. They can only give an educated guess, based on past season results. We all know that the fortunes of individual teams can swing wildly from one year to the next.

  10. Is the league just proposing this because they know that players hate playing on Thursdays?

  11. This is much better than that 18 games crap. Fans want just want to see more football, not want to spend more $$$ to watch games.

    Anyway, I hope if/when this Thursday nite game package comes around the schedule makers allow teams to be shown that aren’t normally, like the Bucs, Rams, Browns (how many got to see Peyton Hillis live last year?), Raiders (hey they were entertaining to watch), and the Lions among others. Hell, even the Bills competed against the Ravens and Steelers.

  12. laeaglefan says:
    Jun 22, 2011 12:32 PM
    They schedule the primetime games in April, way before the season even starts, so there is no way to know with any certainty which will be the good matchups in October, November and December. They can only give an educated guess, based on past season results. We all know that the fortunes of individual teams can swing wildly from one year to the next.
    That’s a point I’ve been trying to make here to the “I don’t have it/refuse to get it” crowd for years now. At this stage of the game, we have no idea whether any of the prime-time matchups are going to be stinkers or are going to be good, let alone any of the Thursday night games.

    That said, you’d think more fans would get behind this as it gives a lot of teams most people could otherwise care less about, like Jacksonville, Carolina and Tennessee, a chance for more prime time exposure and a shot to gain a bigger fanbase.

    Plus, more football > less football.

  13. Hey im all for Thursday Night games. Maybe my Lions can get one of those scrub games!! Anyway if the league does do a Thursday night slate they will need to almost make sure every team has one of those games to make the next weeks game not an advantage with the xtra 3 days rest. or vice versa with only haveing a short week to prepare.

  14. hwentworth says:
    Jun 22, 2011 12:44 PM
    Isn’t strange that there’s been no mention of the 18 game schedule in weeks?
    It’s been long thought the 18 game season was little more than a bargaining chip at this point.

    Don’t kid yourself- 18 games a season will happen. But to get something done now, the owners needed something they could give away, while simultaneously giving the players some time to get used to the idea.

  15. “If this means the NFL is finally going to step up to the plate and get its network on all the cable packages, I’m all for it. Otherwise, this just translates into weaker Sunday slates for me and at least half the country.”

    At least half these are going to be sold to the highest bidder, so it doesn’t have all that much to do about where the network is. If anything it would make the network worth less (if all the games were sold off) and thus less likely to be carried elsewhere.

  16. I think your commentary on this is missing a huge point. You keep making an issue about how much more revenue there would be if the league bids out these Thursday games instead of leaving them on NFLN…

    But if the NFLN keeps them, then would they not be receiving ALL the ad revenue form these games themselves? It a very valuable commodity. Unless another network would be willing to grossly over pay, then I’d have to believe that the revenue difference in keeping or selling the games is negligible. Not to mention the long term strengthening of the NFLN by having the exclusive programming.

    Am I missing something?

  17. @waitingguilty . . . .

    Yes, you are.

    The networks routinely pay more for the NFL than they ever can earn via ad sales, because it helps promote the networks’ other offerings.

    Also, NFLN isn’t in enough homes to command the kind of ad rates that other networks can generate.

    It’s widely accepted that the NFL is leaving money on the table by not selling that package to the highest bidder.

  18. @MF

    Thanks for the reply. I understand what you are saying, but let’s talk about 2 things.

    1. How big a difference in revenue do you predict vs. what the ad sales are on NFLN and what the package may command from the highest bidder?

    2. Can an argument not be made that growing the NFLN through exclusive games would strengthen their position long term? IE this would get them into more homes and thereby increase the ad revenue/shrink the gap between what they sell the games for and what they could sell the ads themselves for?

    Also…to argue that a network would overpay to strengthen their other programming seems to mean that a network currently without the NFL would need to buy the package. Not to mention the fact that I’m not so sure we can predict the same gross over bidding in today’s economy.

  19. Oooo … a thread with sane people!!! I cheered expansion from 8 to 16 Thursday night games on another thread and got all thumbs down from nuts who thought it would add another game to the schedule 😯 or screw up their fantasy play 🙄

    The NFL will offer the Thursday night package to the highest bidder, so it probably won’t air on the NFL Network but on some network available to the cable masses. More weekly games!! Get it done by 2012, fellas!!

  20. More Football is > Than Less Football.

    There has been some discussion about what type of games we will get on Thursday. It’s not like we don’t have a precedent. Here is 2011’s Slate:

    NO @ GB Opening Night
    OAK @ SD
    NYJ @ DEN
    SF @ BAL
    PHI @ SEA
    CLE @ PIT
    JAC @ ATL
    HOU @ INDY

    With the exception of Opening Night, none of this is CAN’T miss TV. I will probably make an effort to watch the intra division games. But other than that I’m not making any schedule arrangements for Thursday Night Football this season or any future season. Unless the Chiefs are playing.

  21. Oh great now we have to watch the Cowboys 3 more times on National TV. Anyway I still can’t understand why the owners aren’t still pushing a 18 game schedule. I HATE the 4 preseason games with a passion.

  22. I like football as much as the rest of you, but I think Thursday night games are a bad idea (with the possible exception of the tradition of the Thanksgiving games).

    Yes, they generate money but there is a downside as well. Vanilla offenses/defenses due to less prep time, extending/aggravating injuries with less time to heal, advantages/disadvantages between division rivals, etc.

    Thursday games mean that teams have to play 3 games in 2 weeks and if there is a full 16 week schedule, there isn’t even the opportunity to mitigate the impact with a bye week.

    While the number of games played is the same, the number of TV prime-time games is increased. Much like the 18 vs. 16 game issue, more does not necessarily mean better.

    I find it comical that many fans who complain about the way TV has dictated changes to the game itself and to its quality (TV timeouts from an attendance standpoint) seem content with this potential change. It may help the week seem to go by faster but it will lessen the quality of the game and the league. Once upon a time. that last part mattered.

  23. FinFan68 …

    Teams have been playing 8 Thursday night games for years, which means some teams already play three games in two weeks, unless their byes are scheduled around those games. And four teams have been playing Thanksgiving games for generations, so you have no problems with four teams playing three games in two weeks. You just have a problem with all the teams being subjected to the same schedule.

    Like I said before, I had Comcast’s NFL Network package hooked up because the Steelers had a Thursday night game in 2008. We won the Super Bowl that year. Didn’t seem to hurt us. If you want to complain, instead of complaining about Americans getting more games to watch, complain about teams being forced to fly across the Atlantic and playing with jetlag just to promote a European expansion that has been a repeated EPIC FAIL. Now that’s something to complain about.

  24. Deb…
    I am aware of what the schedule has been. I just think that Thursday games water down the league a little, all in the name of an extra buck. The turkey day games are steeped in tradition which is why i made that caveat.

    As for the euro-games (and those in Canada/Mexico/Japan), I have been an opponent of those since their inception and I have yet to hear a viable argument in support of it as a long-term option. A few european fans get limited exposure and it is somewhat easier for troops stationed close to get to a game for a taste of home, but I don’t see the point, especially when it places a disadvantage for the teams involved and pulls a home game out of the mix for 1 of the teams. If they must play a game like that in the hopes of generating more fans (read: revenue) then I say do it with the pro-bowl.

  25. @FinFan68 …

    Yes, another Steelers fan made the watering-down argument to me, and I can see where you guys are coming from on that one. For me, it’s just the pure selfish pleasure of having another night of football without increasing the game burden on players. (I haven’t heard them complain about the Thursday games–they seem to enjoy opportunities to play on the national stage.) I wouldn’t want it to go beyond Thursday.

    Of all the issues facing the NFL, this absurd notion that we can expand the core league outside the United States is the one that rankles me most. If we’re on the same side in that, I can overlook a lot of other minor disagreements 😉

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