You can count CBS, ABC, NBC, Turner, Fox and ESPN will be involved in a bidding war for a package of up to eight NFL Thursday night games starting this the 2014 season.
The league has invited all of their present broadcast partner along with Turner Sports to enter the bidding process. Multiple reports have the NFL looking to get anywhere from $500 million to $800 million dollars for the package.
Presently the games air on the NFL Network but because the network is only seen in about 70 million homes nationwide the league realizes that selling eight games to an outlet with a national audience in excess of 100 million homes makes a great deal of business sense.
However, at present the NFL wants whatever network that carries the Thursday Night package to simulcast the games on the NFL Network. The goal is to raise awaeness for the network so that when the final four NFL Network games are broadcast they will get max exposure. It could also force cable companies to add the network in hopes of hitting that magic 100 million subscriber ammount.
So what is the package networks are bidding on?
The games that presetly air on the NFL Network start week two and finish at week 15. Due to playoff considerations there are no games week 16 or 17. The opening week game as well as the Thanksgiving night game presently belong to NBC.
Despite a limited reach the NFL Network is coming off their best season ever as the Thursday night games broke its previous viewership record — the average audience of eight million people per game was 10 percent higher than in 2012.
Right now CBS with The Big Bang Theory leading off wins the Thursday nights most of the year. Could ABC, Fox, NBC or Turner use the NFL to at least own the first ratings book of the season?
The September through early November rating book is always hottly contended and the NFL could turn the tide from CBS unless they win the bid. If they get the package they could keep a stranglehold on being the top network in primetime.
ESPN, Fox Sports 1, NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Networks could all benefit from getting this Thursday night package of games. However, ESPN is part of the Disney team and they would likely back an ABC bid to air the Thursday night games.
As for the CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network getting the package of Thursday night games it is possible. But an $800 million dollar price tag may be too rich for their blood making their respective parent network want hold on to this for at least a while.
One last interesting twist is earlier this season, the Wall Street Journal reported that the league may explore adding a second Thursday game per week, with Netflix , Amazon and YouTube mentioned among the possible broadband partners there. That development does not appear to be included as part of the potential upcoming change.
Expect sometime around the NFL Draft to know who has won the bidding war.