Fox signs five-year deal to air Thursday night NFL

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Fox and the NFL have agreed to a five-year deal for Thursday night football games.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and 21st Century Fox President Peter Rice announced the deal jointly, saying it reflects roughly 10 years of "strategic growth" involving Thursday Night Football.

Fox agreed last month to sell cable channels FX and National Geographic, its movie and TV studio and global assets to Disney. "We now have the two most watched shows on Thursday, including the #1 show on television in Big Bang Theory, and the #1 new show on television in Young Sheldon".

But the thing is - and this is what often gets lost when talking about NFL ratings going down - pro football's popularity has a very long way to fall before it hits bottom. NFL Network will still be allowed to broadcast games, and a separate digital partner will also be involved.

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Thursday night football games have been criticized by players such as Doug Baldwin, Richie Incognito, Arian Foster, Bobby Wagner, Jon Beason, Duane Brown, Josh Sitton and most notably Richard Sherman, and more. The current deal between NBC, Fox, CBS and the NFL for Sunday football costs each station roughly $2 billion per year.

After the sale to Disney, the revamped Fox will include the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel and Fox Sports 1. "We'll now continue on keeping NBC's Sunday Night Football at its perch as primetime's number one program". The NFL Network will still be broadcasting the games at the same time, and it will be available in Spanish on another Fox network.

While this deal is for a second-tier sport (MLS is not almost as popular on TV as MLB, NFL, NBA or National Hockey League games), and exclusive to one local region (albeit the second-largest TV market in the U.S.), this is the first time that a tech company has secured exclusive USA sports rights.

Thursday night in particular has been a complicated affair since its 2014 broadcast debut, posting strong and consistent ratings but yielding few memorable games and contributing to the glut of games. In a departure from its usual MO, the network won't use its top broadcast team (Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) for the Thursday games.

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The NFL has previously sold rights to Thursday night games on 12-month contracts. In addition, FOX Sports also encompasses FOX Sports Digital, which includes FOXSports.com and FOX Sports GO.

When Fox outbid CBS in 1993 for the NFC package of games, critics and competitors wondered the same thing.

"We made a competitive bid based on our two years of carrying TNF", NBC said in a statement.

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