Posted by Will Brinson
There have been many signs that point to positive momentum from the NFL and the players for new football over the past week or so.
But this may be the best part yet: The NFL is reportedly shopping a new eight-game, Thursday night package to the television networks.
"Sources said the league currently has the rights to take enough games from CBS and Fox’s Sunday afternoon schedules to fill the new eight-game package and does not have to wait for those contracts to expire after the 2013 season," Daniel Kaplan and John Ourand wrote in today's Sports Business Journal.
So, as we know, at some point there will be 16 games played on Thursdays; it's more football in the national spotlight, and it's a vehicle to really crank up the presence of the NFL Network, which the league owns.
And under this scenario, eight games would air on the NFL Network and eight games would be shopped to an additional and/or current service provider. But who's that gonna be?
Well, Ourand and Kaplan report that Turner and Comcast "have emerged as the most serious bidders for such a package." Comcast would want to put the games on Versus -- therefore giving people a reason to find out what channel number it is and maybe later on watch hockey -- while Turner would obviously love to beef up the sports presence of TBS, TNT and truth.
"There’s going to be another package because when this [labor] deal finally happens, somebody is going to have to pay for it,” an unidentified network executive told SBJ. “Part of it is going to be paid by a new NFL package.” Additionally, Kaplan and Ourand note that ESPN is close to locking in a deal that will guarantee them possession of Monday Night Football for another decade-plus, at a the not-so-low cost of $1.8 billion per year.
This is particularly important because it sets the stage for a hefty price tag on the Thursday-night package. You can expect the league to demand well north of $500 million for the eight games that will be shown in primetime.
And while there's a great argument that Thursday night games don't draw as many viewers as Monday night games, those early week contests haven't been broadcast on nationally available cable yet.
A couple of compelling matchups on the right channel could immediately change the way the world looks at Thursday night NFL football, and net someone a pretty good revenue stream for the next few years.
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