Fox will take the baton from CBS and NBC and air football on Thursday nights after closing a hefty, five-year deal with the NFL.
Starting in fall of this year, Fox will air 11 regular-season games starting in Week 4 of the gridiron season (excluding Thanksgiving night, on which NBC still has dibs). The games will also be simulcast via the NFL Network and distributed in Spanish on FOX Deportes.
“This agreement is the culmination of over 10 years of strategic growth around Thursday Night Football, a period during which this property has grown from a handful of late season games on NFL Network to a full season of games and one of the most popular shows on broadcast television with additional distribution via cable and digital channels,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “As one of the leaders in sports television and a recognized innovator of NFL game broadcasts for many years, we’re excited to be extending our partnership with Fox Sports, one of our most trusted and valued partners, to include Thursday Night Football.”
It seemed inevitable that CBS and NFL would wash their hands of primetime football, given the sport’s growing price tag and lagging ratings over the last two seasons. Last year’s matchups on CBS alone, like the Bills vs. the Jets and the Bengals vs. the Texans, weren’t exactly bringing down the house of Nielsen. It’s also believed both networks lost money in the deal.
But the new deal could be a big boost to the Fox network, especially since the parent company just sold most of its cable and studio assets to Disney. The network is currently in fourth place among total viewers in primetime, though it’s second behind NBC in adults 18-49.
“Football is in our blood at Fox and we understand that nothing beats the NFL when it comes to television that captures people’s attention,” said 21st Century Fox president Peter Rice in a statement. “Our historic relationship with the NFL dates back to the earliest days of FOX, and we couldn’t be more excited to expand our deep and enduring partnership to include primetime games on Thursday night.”