SBD/September 20, 2011/Media

Networks Surprised By NFL's Decision To Wait On New Thursday-Night Package

The NFL's decision to "hold off on awarding a new TV package for at least a year surprised TV network executives, who originally believed the league was one or two months away from cutting a deal," according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. One network exec said, "I was shocked. I really thought that would be the next deal that they would do." Up to four networks "were having informal talks with the NFL about a new Thursday night package of eight games during the first half of the season," though that package "was never officially on the market." The NFL "started the informal conversations to gauge interest in the package." Several network execs "were expecting talks to heat up as soon as the league finalized its 'Monday Night Football' extension with ESPN," but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "squashed that idea Sept. 8." Goodell: "It’s not likely that we would do it in the next year. We’re going to continue our discussions with our current partners and evaluate aspects of our new labor agreement as part of that. (We’re going to) make what we expect to be the best decision for our fans, for our 32 clubs and for our partners." Ourand notes that means the NFL "will renew its broadcast packages, which expire at the end of the 2013 season." A league source said that the "decision to wait a year before awarding the new eight-game package is partly a result of the NFL’s decision not to increase its schedule to 18 games." The "only way to carve out a new package with a 16-game schedule would be to take games away from CBS and Fox’s current packages, which could be problematic as the league goes back to those networks in renewal talks" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/19 issue).
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