Thursday Night Football is here to stay, for at least the next five years. With FOX paying $550 million per year (maybe more, depending on which reports are to be believed) for the privilege of televising 11 of the games on a broadcast network, the series continues to justify its existence by generating big revenue.
“It’s one of those things where it’s a trade-off, right?” NFLPA president Eric Winston told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “The Thursday night package drives quite a bit of revenue. But at the same time, health and safety has to be prominent and important and something you don’t really want to trade off for money.”
Winston hopes for a “longer runway” before Thursday night games. The Commissioner, however, isn’t convinced that enough players want a bye week before playing a mid-week game.
Options include adding a second bye (the NFL tried using two byes per team in 1992 and 1993), expanding the season by a week, and configuring the extra bye to ensure that the teams playing on Thursday don’t play the prior Sunday. This approach would further complicate an already arduous process of scheduling 256 regular-season games, and it would create awkward scenarios including, for example, two teams not playing on the first Sunday of the regular season, since they will be playing on Thursday in Week Two.
For now, the NFL has the power to continue to stage Thursday night games, and it’s clear that this will continue, through the expiration of the current CBA in early 2021 and, given the $1.1 billion over two years that would be lost if TNF goes away, likely beyond.