SBD/December 16, 2015/Media

NFL Ready To Accept New Bids For Thursday Night Package, Including Streaming Companies



The NFL has told TV networks that it is ready to accept bids for the “Thursday Night Football” package that, once again, will be for just two years, according to several sources. The league last week sent formal RFPs to the usual TV partners and outlets -- CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and Turner -- that outlined the NFL’s plan to sell a one-year deal with a league option for a second year. The league also sent RFPs to several digital companies, like Google, Yahoo, Apple and Amazon, to stream the entire Thursday night schedule on a non-exclusive basis, sources said. The league’s initial plan would have the digital streams serve as a simulcast of the television production -- with the same ads and in-game production features. The league expects bidding to start in the low $300M for the television package, with a nominal escalator in year two, sources said. CBS currently is paying around $300M per season for the Thursday night package. It is not clear how much the league is expecting to make from the streaming rights, but several sources said the digital streams would not diminish the TV rights fee, especially if the digital streams carried the same advertising. Yahoo paid around $15M for the streaming rights to one game this season, but that was on an exclusive basis. In a recent interview with Re/Code, NFL Exec VP/Media & NFL Network CEO Brian Rolapp said, “We are talking to numerous people -- both traditional media companies and some of the Internet guys -- and I think there will be a heavy digital component [for Thursday]. It is just a question of what the model will be and how we will do it.”

INSIDE THE RFP: The league’s RFP shows that the NFL had not altered its strategy a great deal when it comes to the Thursday night package. As in the past two years, the NFL outlined a Thursday night deal that would have the winning bidder produce all 16 games, even ones that would be carried exclusively on NFL Network. NFL Network would continue to simulcast games from the winning bidder and carry eight games -- produced by the winning bidder -- on its own. The RFP asks TV companies to outline a plan for how they would grow NFL Network should they win the package, through promotional efforts and added reach. At least one network exec floated the idea of potentially bidding to take over the channel’s cable carriage negotiations as a way to grow the network, but an NFL source said that is not what the league means by “growing" the network. Multiple sources said that the RFP mentioned the idea of allowing NFL Network to simulcast at least one of the network’s playoff games, sources said, though TV network executives said such a situation would be unlikely. The NFL expects to receive the bids shortly after the New Year with a decision expected to come before the Super Bowl.
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