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(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

FOX Sports and the National Football League have reached an agreement to broadcast Thursday Night Football games for five seasons, beginning in 2018, both parties announced in a joint statement Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's an indication that the League feels the Thursday Night broadcast is working to attract more fans and revenue, despite years of complaints that Thursday night games heightened injury risk and lowered the quality of play.

The deal is worth roughly $550 million, up $100 million from what CBS and NBC paid combined over the previous two seasons, according to Sports Business Journal.

  • And while the price tag seems high, the NFL is still the most valuable content on television right now.
  • Despite ratings slumps, NFL games accounted for roughly 75% of the of the most-watched programs on TV in 2017.

What's next: FOX will replace CBS and NBC as the single broadcasting partner for the next five years. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league is still looking at how it will divide some of the digital distribution rights.

  • The agreement gives FOX distribution rights to 11 games between Weeks 4-15 (excluding Thanksgiving night) to be broadcast on FOX and simulcast via NFL Network, according to a statement. They will also be distributed in Spanish on FOX Deportes.
  • FOX Sports gets the rights in addition to its current Sunday NFC package agreement. The NFL Network will exclusively televise seven games next season, with FOX producing the full slate of 18 games.
  • The deal also includes mobile broadcasting rights, which Verizon gave up exclusivity to this year. Verizon will still; however, be broadcasting games via mobile on Thursday, Monday and Sunday nights.

Competition for the rights was less competitive than expected. CBS and NBC reportedly bid less than their combined $450 million to continue streaming the games. ESPN pulled out of bidding last-minute for the rights, which would also be simulcasted on its sister network, ABC.

Thursday night deals have typically lasted 1-2 years, but this package mimics other nightly deals that the NFL has out, like ESPN's eight-year agreement for Monday night game rights through 2021. This indicates that the network sees Thursday night games as a stable franchise.

Reproduced from GroupM, The State of Video; Note: Includes properties with annual media rights over $500m and individual deals over $200m. Table: Axios Visuals

Our thought bubble: FOX sports is a part of the "New FOX" network that will exist after a potential Disney-FOX merger goes through, which the Murdochs say will focus on sports and news. It makes sense that the Murdochs' focus on sports within the new network includes a competitive bidding strategy for NFL rights.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

CES was largely irrelevant this year

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

The FBI is tracing a digital trail to Capitol rioters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Capitol rioters, eager to share proof of their efforts with other extremists online, have so far left a digital footprint of at least 140,000 images that is making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to capture and arrest them.

The big picture: Law enforcement's use of digital tracing isn't new, and has long been at the center of fierce battles over privacy and civil liberties. The Capitol siege is opening a fresh front in that debate.

Off the Rails

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.