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Report: FOX Sports pays $550 million per year for Thursday Night Football rights

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The price of television rights is not the be-all, end-all indicator of a sports popularity, but it’s safe to say Wednesday’s news brings a smile to the face of the NFL. FOX Sport has signed on as the league’s broadcast partner for Thursday Night Football, and they are paying through the nose for it. Sports Business Daily reporter John Ourand is reporting the deal is worth roughly $550 million per year.

The previous deal involved NBC and CBS and covered two years. The two networks paid a combined $450 million per year to make that happen. Amazon had streaming rights this past year, and those are still to be sold for the new deal. The FOX Sports deal is for five years, putting its expiration in line with the rest of the league’s TV deals.

Ratings have gone down for football, but clearly networks think it is still a valuable property. Based on the reports, FOX Sports is paying 22 percent more than NBC/CBS paid for each of the previous two seasons. This does not mean football is saved and all is well, but clearly some of the talk about ratings declines are a bit overblown.

I do think football has issues it must confront. The concussion and general player safety issue remains a problem. And less serious, but still pertinent, is cord cutting. But that latter issue is something all broadcasters are facing.

As for TNF, I still wish they would do away with it. The NFL recently acknowledged that the injury rate for TNF surpassed Sunday games this past season, but they also felt it was not statistically noteworthy. But even beyond injuries, there is the concern about players fully recovering from Sunday to Thursday. It may not show up on the injury report, but what the NFL requires leaves a ton of wiggle room. And even with the occasional great TNF game, the product is usually inferior to what we see when players get a full week of recovery.

But the NFL doesn’t actually care about player safety, so they continue to just jump into a pile of money Scrooge McDuck style.