Facing an otherwise uncertain future, Fox has acquired the exclusive broadcast rights to Thursday Night Football.
The massive five-year deal — which is valued at an annual $550 million — will go into effect this fall, with Fox set to broadcast 11 regular-season games between Weeks 4 and 15 of the NFL season, according to our sister site Variety. The deal excludes the Thanksgiving night game, which will continue to air on NBC.
The Thursday Night Football package, which initially consisted of eight games, was acquired by CBS as part of a two-year deal in 2014. Beginning in 2016, the NFL negotiated two five-game packages which were sold to CBS and NBC. Both networks thus had to start their regular Thursday lineups late, several weeks into the fall season, or take those scripted shows off the air for a month-plus, making for a hard-to-follow schedule.
Word of the Fox’s interest in Thursday Night Football came seven weeks after it was announced that the Walt Disney Company is expected to acquire 21st Century Fox in a merger valued at a staggering $52.4 billion. The deal, which does not include the Fox broadcasting network and “divorces” the home of Homer Simpson from its production studio, has led to doubt about the network’s future in the scripted content game. Should the merger be approved (which, by all accounts, could take 12 to 18 months), much of the broadcaster’s primetime lineup is expected to consist of news, live sports and cheap, unscripted fare.