The National Football League has signalled the start of the race for bidding on the “Thursday Night Football” package for two years. Last week, according to Sports Business Daily, the NFL sent formal requests for proposals (RFPs) to the usual suspects: CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC, and Turner. The RFPs outlined the league’s plan to sell a one-year deal with an option for a second year. The key difference with this round of bidding, however, is that the NFL has also sent RFPs to several digital companies, including Apple, for non-exclusive streaming rights to the games. Other contenders for the streaming rights include Google, Yahoo, and Amazon.
What this means, if it all works out, is that Thursday Night Football will be available both through a television network and through a streaming partner. The bidding for the television package is expected to start in the low $300 million range, since CBS is currently paying that much per season. We don’t know yet how much the bidding will start at for the streaming rights, but several sources have said that the digital streams would not diminish the television rights fee.
NFL executive vice president of media and NFL Network CEO Brian Rolapp was quoted as saying that the NFL is “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.”
The tentative plans for the deal would be to simulcast the television productions, including identical advertising. It’s obvious, and great, that the NFL is gradually adopting a more digital-friendly strategy. It streamed a London, United Kingdom game via Yahoo during the last season, and has committed to making 2016’s Super Bowl viewable for free online.