The new Thursday-night tie-up between the National Football League and Fox will apparently lead to some more football-themed programming on the network on Sundays.
Fox will this season offer “NFL GameDay Prime” Sundays at 11:30 p.m. to its affiliates, according to two people familiar with the situation. The weekly “wrap” show is produced by NFL Network, which will air it simultaneously. In a unique twist, the NFL will sell the national advertising surrounding the program, these people said; affiliates will have their own ad opportunities. The league views the agreement as an “opportunistic” move, one of these people said, and is not necessarily looking to get into the business of selling commercial time for broadcasts of its games on Fox, CBS, NBC or ESPN.
A Fox Sports representative could not be reached for immediate comment.
Many local stations offer a late-Sunday sports highlights program, often a collection of clips curated by a familiar sports anchor. This notion would add new elements to the concept, because it is produced and sold by one of the leagues whose games are often the basis for those highlights.
The arrangement spotlights the ongoing inroads sports leagues are making with their content. The NFL and Major League Baseball are among the sports leagues that offer their own programming via cable outlets. The New York Yankees have a stake in YES, a regional-sports outlet that is owned by Fox and slated to be sold to a new owner as part of the coming sale of the bulk of 21st Century Fox to the Walt Disney Company (Disney has to sell off Fox’s sports holdings as part of the deal).
And it highlights the leverage the NFL continues to wield over its media partners, who need football games – some of TV’s most-viewed properties – to keep the mass audiences that advertisers expect from broadcast TV. The NFL has in past years extended digital streaming rights for its games to new competitors like Verizon and Amazon. With many of the league’s broadcast rights lapsing in a few years, the traditional media players are no doubt eager to keep their supplier happy. Launching the new Sunday-night program means Fox affiliates may have to bump other programming they were showing in that time slot elsewhere in their lineups, and could keep the stations from some of the ad revenue they might have earned as a result.
Fox and the NFL have been in business for years – Fox’s Sunday-afternoon football broadcasts are among the most-viewed properties on TV – but their relationship expanded in January when the entertainment conglomerate, controlled by the Murdoch family, struck a five-year deal with the NFL to air “Thursday Night Football,” an 11-game series that had previously been split among NBC and CBS. The deal is said to be valued at more than $650 million per year.
Fox will rely more heavily on sports and live programming after the completion of the sale to Disney, slated to take place in 2019. In addition to the Thursday-night deal with the NFL, Fox has agreed to start airing WWE’s “SmackDown Live” in 2019, and will also broadcast bowling that year.
The NFL has been selling ad inventory associated with the new show in recent weeks, according to one of these people, and still has commercial slots to sell.
Fox affiliates were recently notified about the new program, and both the network and the league are working to determine how many stations will carry the show and whether or not they will be able to do so at 11:30 p.m. Some affiliates may choose to offer “GameDay Prime” in another time slot due to conflicts with other programming that is already contracted to air.