The NFL has a neat little trick in which they announce big news close to the Super Bowl that at times can ruffle some feathers, but is often lost in the hoopla of the Super Bowl. Cris Carter snubbed by the Hall Of Fame? A football game in Mexico? More Thursday Night Football? In a regular week, this could be fodder on Around The Horn, PTI, Twitter, and the blogosphere. But in a Super Bowl week coupled with a 24/7 Peyton Manning PR battle in addition to the game hype, these news items seemed to just come and go without much analysis.
With that in mind, we've taken the liberty to build out a comprehensive winners and losers of the additional games that may or may not becoming to your television set this fall on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football.
You don't have to be Richard Sandomir to realize the NFL Network is the biggest winner. Going from 8 games to 13 games extends the window of NFL Network's relevancy from just November-December to nearly the entire season with games now in September and October as well.
The added games are nothing to sneeze at. It means more advertising dollars, higher carriage fees, and more television markets being on the channel. The additional games and eyeballs gives the network not only more revenue, but also additional leverage to bend over negotiate with cable operators like Time Warner and Cablevision who are still engaged in trench warfare with the network.
Generally speaking, football has been nationally televised on Thursday Nights for a half season. Now it's on for almost a full season. For those without the NFL Sunday Ticket on DirectTV, you're now getting access to more football and obviously that's a good thing for fans...
I don't fully grasp why bars are such a popular destination during football games. More expensive beer and food, less comfortable seating, terrible bathrooms, and a worse view of the game unless you have a television from W's first term. Yet somehow they're typically filled to the brim whenever football is on, doesn't matter who is playing or when the game is. If there is a football game, it's time to put a jersey on and drink for three hours at your local watering hole.
As if Thursday hadn't already been annexed into the weekend by college students and young bachelors, now an additional 10% of the Thursdays in a calendar year will be blessed with NFL football and crowded bars.
Craptastic Small Market Teams
One of the main talking points of this announcement is every team now playing in primetime. The field will be leveled in regards to each NFL team now playing a Thursday game after a Sunday game, hence every team will have that disadvantage once a year.
Not having your team on primetime television is a pretty big slight that fans don't take lightly. While Thursday Night Football is no institution like other primetime games, the lower tier teams of the NFL will have one night to be shown to the rest of the country and potentially avoid some of the less favorable announcing teams (from Fox, mainly) at the lower end of their announcing totem pole.
I am sure many of you are just ecstatic now that you'll likely see a team like the Seahawks, Panthers, or Browns every year. However, it's definitely good for the NFL as each team and their up and coming stars will have a night of their own to be showcased. Guys like Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson, and ummm Phil Dawson (?) will get that opportunity to shine.
Obviously, there are also revenue implications in addition to the fact that the NFL will likely move the ball forward with getting the network in more households.
Ultimately, NFL Network is going to use this newly found leverage to get distribution deals with the remaining cable company holdouts. Then, they may cut the Thursday Night package in half and bid it out to the likes of NBC Sports Network, Turner, and perhaps ESPN or FX. In that sense, they're building the value of that future property with built in awareness, advertisers, and ratings data.
Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock
Every announcer has their fans and detractors. Nessler and Mayock scored pretty well in their first year together in the NFLN booth and now they'll be showcased five additional times this year. Both Mayock and Nessler have other gigs and this only adds to their demand, salaries, and recognizability with sports fans.
Sportsbooks and Bookies
The football games with the most action are typically always the primetime games. You're going to watch them anyways, so why not lay $20 on 6:1 odds that James Harrison will have a hit in the game in which he'll later be fined for.
Some won't connect the dots here right away, but ESPN is by far the biggest loser. ESPN owns Thursday nights with their college football game schedule. Truth be told, they've done a nice job over the years as there has been plenty of great, nationally relevant games on Thursdays.
Up until now, only two or three Thursdays a year had both college and NFL action going head to head. Now, almost all ESPN college broadcasts on Thursday Nights will have to face the ratings juggernaut that is the NFL. That's a HEAVY blow and one that is going to impact the bottom line in a big way for ESPN. Perhaps big enough where they look to bid on Thursday Night Football when a new package goes up and put a much less sexy lineup of college games on ESPN2? Unlikely, but something to think about.
Cable and Satellite Operators
Although the NFL Network probably won't hold on to the entire 13 game Thursday Night package for the long term, you can rest assured they'll strike as many deals as possible with operators while their programming assets are at an all time high. Renewals will see a big bump of fees and for the holdouts, they're going to have to come back to the table after a prolonged stalemate with the knowledge they don't have as much freedom to employ tactics from the Scott Boras school of negotiating.
Fox and CBS
While ratings for the NFL keep going up, there is an interesting story flying under the radar as the percentage of the total NFL football being watched on Fox and CBS continues to go down.
NBC's Sunday Night Football is now the big boy on the block. Monday Night Football is still a big draw. Redzone Channel and NFL Redzone, and now an extended Thursday Night schedule, has essentially slowly eroded the market share of football Fox and CBS has held. Five more games split between the two networks means that on those weekends, they'll be in less local markets and have a smaller selection of games to pick as their "national game" when holding the alternating doubleheader.
I am sure they expected this news, but this only reduces the value of those massive extensions just signed with the league.
People Who Are Fed Up About Hearing About Other People's Fantasy Teams
More nationally televised football equals more people talking about their stupid fantasy football team like I give a...... If I can act totally normal when having $100 on a football game, can't you just shut-up for two minutes about your coed softball team's no entry fee fantasy team? More fantasy football banter on Thursdays and the day after almost made me put gunmakers on the winners portion of this list.
DirecTV, Redzone Channel, NFL Redzone
It will be hard to notice, but they all lose here. The Sunday Ticket on DirecTV loses 5 games a year so technically the value goes down (although I guarantee the price will stay the same or go up).
What you will notice is the RZC and duplicate NFL Redzone Channel will have one less game to rotate to on Sunday afternoon. You may not notice it during the early games, but in the late games when often only three or four games are on, there will be less action to show. Fans may be subjected to more unfortunate instances of no live football being shown if the commercial breaks happen to align. This is a nightmare scenario for Sunday football addicts.
At the end of day, you may think it's crazy to dive this deep into who wins and loses with the announcement of 5 more football games being aired on Thursday. That said, the NFL is BIG business and even subtle changes like this have major implications on the bottom line. To put this in perspective, the NFL's recent deal with Anheuser Busch essentially pays the league HALF A MILLION DOLLARS AND CHANGE A DAY to be the official beer sponsor of the NFL. Adding games, losing games, getting a bump in viewers, a drop in advertisers, etc... all of this isn't just a few drops in the bucket. It's a splash. Last week's announcement definitely got some water on a lot of people.