Fox Sports agrees $3bn deal for 'Thursday Night Football'

21st Century Fox

NEW YORK: The National Football League, America's most popular sports league and home to the most popular programming on television, Wednesday reached an agreement with Fox Sports, to broadcast the next five seasons of Thursday Night Football beginning with the 2018 season. 

While financial terms were not disclosed in the announcement made jointly by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox, Reuters reports that Fox Sports has agreed to pay in excess of $3 billion for the rights.

Under the deal, Fox will be paying about $60 million per game, up from the $45 million per game CBS Corp and Comcast Corp's NBC were paying for broadcast rights this season, the newswire further reports.

In December, Disney announced a $52.4 billion agreement to buy the bulk of Fox's assets, leaving sports and news to the remaining Fox company.

"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 Goodell. "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."

The agreement awards Fox Sports with a five-year deal that includes 11 games between Weeks 4-15 (excluding Thanksgiving night) to be broadcast on Fox, simulcast via NFL Network, and distributed in Spanish on Fox Deportes. In addition, NFL Network will exclusively televise seven games next season, with Fox producing the full slate of 18 games. As home to the No. 1 NFL package for the past 24 seasons, Fox Sports complements its current Sunday NFC package agreement with the addition of Thursday Night Football.

The agreement also allows Fox Sports and the NFL to each expand its digital rights, enabling the network to distribute both Thursday Night Football and its Sunday games to Fox subscribers over a wide array of digital platforms including mobile phones for the first time. The agreement also allows the NFL to further develop digital distribution models for Thursday Night Football as well as Fox's Sunday games.

"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 Rice. "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 prime-time games on Thursday night."

The NFL is the most valuable content in all of sports with nine of television's 10 most-watched programs of the calendar year in 2017. The 2017-18 Fox NFL regular season came to a close with America's Game of the Week averaging 22,745,000 viewers which ranks as televisions No. 1 show for the ninth straight year. Additionally, Fox NFL Kickoff (11:00 AM ET) and Fox NFL Sunday (12:00 PM ET) enter the 2018 season as the No. 1 NFL pregame shows in their respective time slots. The OT, Fox's postgame show, ranks 8th among prime time's top-20 programs.

Presented by Bud Light, Thursday Night Football is a top-5 show in all of television and the No. 2 show in prime time. In securing the Thursday Night Football package, Fox now has 3 of the 5 most-watched shows in all of television. 

The power of an NFL audience is unmatched in television. Live sports programming will be a catalyst in providing a robust promotional platform for Fox's entertainment programming during the NFL season. This marks the fifth media rights deal between Fox Sports and the NFL dating back to the landmark agreement struck in December 1993 that essentially solidified Fox as a major broadcast network.