The NFL reached an agreement with FOX Sports to broadcast Thursday Night Football for the next five seasons, the NFL and FOX announced jointly Wednesday.
“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,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, via the release.
The deal will bring in $660 million per year for the NFL, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
FOX will broadcast 11 Thursday night games after Week 4 for the next five seasons, and those games will also air on NFL Network. Seven Thursday night games will air exclusively on NFL Network. It’s a similar model for how Thursday Night Football aired during the 2017 season, though the games were split between CBS, NBC, and NFL Network.
Thanksgiving night games will be excluded. Those will continue to air on NBC as part of the Sunday Night Football package.
The deal may also bring a shift to the digital distribution model for Thursday Night Football. FOX will make its games available to viewers through its digital platforms, and games will be broadly available on mobile phones for the first time.
Thursday Night Football (presented by Bud Light, dilly dilly) ranks in the top five for viewership across all programs and was the No. 2 show in primetime last season.
It’s lucrative for the league, but players hate Thursday night games, and for good reason. Players’ bodies take a beating on Sunday, and it’s a quick turnaround to get physically and mentally ready for a Thursday game.
After Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went down with a torn Achilles in a Thursday Night Football matchup against the Cardinals in Week 10. He was one of six Seahawks starters to leave the game with an injury.
“This shit should be illegal. It is not OK. It’s not OK. You can quote me on that,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin joins a chorus of players who believe Thursday night games are bad for players.
The league has maintained until recently that the injury rates for Thursday night games aren’t any higher than Sundays. But that changed this year. The league admitted during a press conference last week that injury rates were higher on Thursdays than they were for games played on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
But $660 million per year is a lot of money, and Thursday night games aren’t going anywhere.