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

21st Century Fox President Peter Rice said Monday the network is willing to pay much more than previous rights owners for Thursday Night NFL games because, in his words: "You either have must-watch content on TV or you don't have it."

Why it matters: Rice says the Fox broadcast network is built on the value that the NFL brings to its brand, and all of 21st Century Fox's other channels — like FX, Nat Geo, Fox News — ride on the success of that broadcast channel, making the price tag reasonable even if it is much higher than what CBS and NBC paid over the past two years.

FOX Sports and the National Football League reached an agreement to broadcast Thursday Night Football games for five seasons, beginning in 2018. The deal is worth roughly $550 million per year, up $100 million from what CBS and NBC paid combined over the previous two seasons.

  • "If you look at our deal with NFL going back to 1993, the broadcast network brought so much value to the whole company. The broadcast channel helped launched every other channel we have, like regional sports networks, Nat Geo, etc.," Rice says.
  • Despite ratings slumps, NFL games accounted for roughly 75% of the of the 50 most-watched programs on TV in 2017.
  • Rice said the last time the NFL solicited rights for two-seasons they weren't as "aggressive" in the bidding process because the deals were too short.

Rice says the rights also give Fox the opportunity to build direct-to-consumer business and to divvy up distribution more strategically.

Rice says the new Fox, after a Disney merger, will be a very powerful, nimble and cash-rich broadcast company with strong sports and news assets. He says the likelihood of New Fox building a direct-to-consumer business is something they're looking at.

  • "We are now very reliant upon the bundle we present to distributors as a broad company."

Asked which would be a better owner for the Fox assets, Disney or Comcast, which has rumored to be tossing its hat in the ring for a second time, Rice said the deals would be great for Disney.

"Disney will be the biggest, most powerful company Hollywood has ever seen."
— 21st Century Fox President Peter Rice

New Fox will be run by Lachlan Murdoch. Asked about the future of James Murdoch after the merger, Rice said it's "up to James."

  • "I think he'll be captain of his own ship in terms of what he wants to do. I think he'll get to chose what he wants to do."

Go deeper

2 mins ago - World

Abbas announces first Palestinian elections in 15 years

Abbas is 85 and in the 15th year of a 4-year term. Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published a decree on Friday announcing the dates for parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: This is the first time in 15 years that such a decree has been published. The last presidential elections took place in 2005, with Abbas winning, and the last parliamentary elections took place in 2006, with Hamas winning.

Updated 8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — America has tuned out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction — 1 in 3 people in L.A. County believed to have been infected with coronavirus.
  2. Politics: Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan— Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat — Joe Biden will seek nearly $2 trillion in COVID relief spending.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.