As part of its new deal for NFL Thursday Night Football, Fox may gain an NFL Wild Card playoff game, which could come at the expense of ESPN and parent company ABC/Disney.
According to Sports Business Journal, it’s still unclear which playoff game Fox Sports would get as part of its new five-year Thursday Night Football deal—rumored to be costing Fox around $3.3 billion—but that ESPN’s Wild Card matchup makes the most sense.
The NFL got ABC to simulcast the ESPN playoff game during the league’s look-in for the 2016 season, and the NFL will have another look-in this season, as the report points out. That could be the point in time when the NFL opts to hand the game over to Fox.
As the report also points out, ESPN may not mind losing the game, as it’s proven difficult to generate a profit from it, given that it’s the early game on Saturday during the NFL’s Wild Card weekend and thus the game with the lowest ratings. The Titans-Chiefs game during that time slot this year averaged 22.1 million viewers across ABC and ESPN.
The potential for Fox gaining another NFL playoff game as part of its Thursday night deal comes as Fox Networks CEO Peter Rice just reassured the crowd at the Code Media conference that his company did not overpay for the rights. Fox already pays about $1.1 billion per season for Sunday NFC day games. Even by adding another $660 million or $550 million per season to that total, Fox would still be paying less per season than the $1.9 billion ESPN currently pays for Monday Night Football.