This comes from the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand who has been on top of this story since last year. He’s reporting (subscription required) in this week’s issue that with the announcement of five additional games to the Thursday Night Football schedule on NFL Network, it now appears unlikely that there will be a new 1st half package of TNF games sent out for bid.
It was thought that the expansion of the Thursday Night Football schedule for the 2012 season would eventually lead to a split contract between a new partner (ESPN, Turner Sports or NBC Sports Network) and NFL Network when the new television contract began in 2014. However, Ourand is reporting through sources that any new package will have to wait for the foreseeable future.
During the NFL Lockout, Commissioner Roger Goodell gauged interest from the networks for a potential 1st half, 8 game Thursday Night Football package, but then it appeared that the Commish took the idea off the table when the 2011 season began, only to seemingly bring it back again before the regular season was about to end.
However, with 13 games on NFL Network and 15 Thursday Night games overall (the remaining two will be aired by NBC on Opening Night and the Thanksgiving holiday), it seems that the schedule is now etched in stone for now.
This also could be a ploy to get leverage against two large cable providers, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable which remain steadfast in their refusal to pick up NFL Network. While the NFL has made several gains with several larger cable providers in the last few years, they still cannot penetrate Time Warner and Cablevision systems. And there doesn’t appear to be any discussions on the horizon with either company at the present time.
The big losers in this are Comcast and Turner Sports, both of which have wanted to get NFL games for their respective cable channels. Of course, Comcast has been hoping to get a Thursday Night package for Versus now NBC Sports Network since the last decade, only to see it passed over for NFL Network twice. And Turner has been eyeing a return to the NFL since losing the first half of the Sunday Night Football package to ESPN in the late 1990′s.
It’s all quite a fascinating turn in the world of the NFL.