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Fox and NFL officially announce 5-year $660 million per year Thursday Night Football deal

And people said the NFL was in trouble because of dipping television ratings. It’s official, Fox is paying roughly $660 million per year for 11 Thursday Night Football games until 2022. That’s $60 million per game, which is a huge increase from the $45 million per game that CBS and NBC were paying for games this year. There are reasons Fox made this decision and it’s not because they think ratings will increase anytime soon.

Fox needs the content

Fox needed to show that they would still be a player when it came to live sports content. The company is in the midst of selling a ton of assets to Disney in a — proposed — $50 billion-plus deal.

That deal made a lot of people question whether Fox was in some type of cost-cutting mode. That is definitely not the case.They wanted TNF so badly that they outbid the closest competitor by what looks to be a lot of money.

It’s not about ratings because ratings are relative

We’ve heard it from the rooftops. The NFL’s ratings are down because of politics, or head injuries, or insert something that fits your worldview here. As mentioned over and over again on TouchdownWire, this is a systemic issue.

Everything on television is seeing a ratings dip. The NFL still garners the most eyeballs. It still crushes other programming in comparison. It’s still the best way to reach the most amount of people. It’s a new reality here. The advertising world is going to have to adjust and change their views. Brands and ad agencies will either pay less — doubtful — or readjust what their cost per impression or cost per viewer actually is. Make no mistake, they’ll pay for that advertising. There will probably be some clawbacks, but the idea that the NFL is in trouble because of a ratings drop is becoming more asinine every day. It’s only in trouble if it fits someone’s narrative or brand — we won’t mention names here but just go on Twitter and they are easy to find. The NFL isn’t in trouble because their ratings are always better than any other competing programming. Again, it’s all relative.

Digital is a big part of the deal

Fox demanded expanded digital rights as part of the deal and they got them. That’s not surprising since every media company is demanding more exclusivity and bigger digital rights. The NFL is still shopping the rights that Amazon paid this year for streaming games. It’s a two-pronged approach that can absorb some of the ratings drops from cord cutters.

Shoulder programming and marketing play

Fox will be able to plan this out. Normally TNF had short-term media rights. Now Fox has a five-year deal. This means that the marketing group has the ability to create long-term plans. It allows for a more coherent and consistent strategy. It’s better for the business people.

It also allows Fox to continually hammer its viewers with FS1 interstitials and promotions. Fox desperately needs to grow FS1 viewership. FS1 had a great year in terms of year over year increases, but it’s still not the competitor to ESPN that Fox executives hoped or envisioned. The NFL deal means that somewhere between 10 and 15 million viewers will be tuning into Fox for 11 games every year. FS1 should — and probably will — be a huge part of the Fox strategy.

People who are against the NFL received a dose of reality

The NFL isn’t going anywhere. The league just received a 33 percent increase on its rights for what is considered their least valuable property. Everyone yelling about the demise of the NFL may have celebrated a bit prematurely. The NFL is not in trouble. It’s still the top sports league in the United States. Fox apparently doesn’t think that will change in the next five years. King stays king, and this deal proves that.

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