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TNF: Never bet against the NFL getting a raise

dollar sign made from footballsNot surprisingly, the NFL has sold the rights to Thursday Night Football to FOX at a healthy increase from the last contract. Despite TNF‘s bad matchups, declines in audience, and the eye-searing “Color Rush” uniforms, FOX has agreed to pay between a 20 to 40 percent increase in rights fees (depending on which news source you read). In either case, this is a big win for the NFL.

As noted in my blog post last week, the award of TNF to FOX made a lot of sense, both for FOX and for the NFL. It certainly proves that it will take a lot more than two years of declining ratings to put a dent in the NFL’s revenue stream from television rights.

Let’s put up the stats

The fact is that even with declining ratings, NFL games are still going to garner the most eyes for marketers in one place. In a happy coincidence (or perhaps not), MoffettNathanson just released data via MediaPost that  show that two thirds – 66 – of the top 100 telecasts last year were regular-season NFL games.  Their data also claim that the highest price for a 30 second commercial in primetime NFL ($700,000 for Sunday Night Football or  $550,000 on CBS’ or NBC’s Thursday Night Football games) dwarfs the highest-priced primetime entertainment shows (NBC’s This is Us at $394,000 or CBS’ Big Bang Theory at $286,000). Hard to argue with those numbers.

The NFL, even with its ups and downs, has only ever experienced “ups” concerning its TV rights fees, at least since 1982. This agreement with FOX on TNF should silence those predicting a drop in NFL value and presages another big win when the AFC and NFC packages come up for negotiation prior to 2022. If there were a media fantasy league, the NFL should always be the #1 pick.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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