So why did FOX pony up $550 million per year for the privilege of swiping Thursday Night Football from CBS and NBC? FOX has essentially turned the clock back to 1994.
That’s when FOX first disrupted the CBS-NBC Sunday afternoon hammerlock on the NFL’s broadcast rights, propping up a then-young network best known for The Simpsons and Married With Children, but not much more.
Currently, FOX’s prime-time lineup doesn’t have much programming that moves the national needle. By securing the rights to the midweek package, FOX will now win 11 Thursday nights every season, for each of the next five.
At $550 million annually for a deal that (per a source with knowledge of the situation) came together over the weekend, FOX definitely will lose money on the deal. But the money overspent on football will be used to promote the rest of the lineup, in the hopes of reviving the network. Whether it works for FOX doesn’t matter; it definitely works for the NFL, which has pumped up by a full $100 million per year the money that it will receive for Thursday Night Football.
Also, with FOX selling off much of its assets to Disney, the money will be easier to raise for TNF — and the motivation to make a big splash becomes even more significant.
This means that Thursday Night Football will be going nowhere for the next five years, and that it likely will continue to be a fixture even beyond 2022, when all of the current three-letter broadcast deals are up for rebid.