Here's some information from the great John Ourand:
The NFL has told TV networks that it is ready to accept bids for the “Thursday Night Football” package that, once again, will be for just two years, according to several sources. The league last week sent formal RFPs to the usual TV partners and outlets -- CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and Turner -- that outlined the NFL’s plan to sell a one-year deal with a league option for a second year. The league also sent RFPs to several digital companies, like Google, Yahoo, Apple and Amazon, to stream the entire Thursday night schedule on a non-exclusive basis, sources said. The league’s initial plan would have the digital streams serve as a simulcast of the television production -- with the same ads and in-game production features. The league expects bidding to start in the low $300M for the television package, with a nominal escalator in year two, sources said. CBS currently is paying around $300M per season for the Thursday night package.It had been reported by some that the NFL was looking for a long-term deal that would sync up with the conclusion of the current NFL television deal (2021 for ESPN, 2022 for CBS, Fox and NBC) but now it looks more like what CBS initially signed up for which was one season with an option for a second.
The streaming is a new aspect of this part of the package and it is clear that in the wake of the relatively successful streaming of Jaguars-Bills from London earlier this season on Yahoo, the league is intrigued by online streaming. However, Bloomberg reported that the league is not ready to exclusively stream games over the course of the season:
Aside from any wariness the NFL has about undermining relationships with traditional television distributors, the people who run the league aren’t convinced that the Internet can handle live streaming on the scale of pro football. Many Internet infrastructure companies agree, a reminder that technical challenges could be a major obstacle to a future where the Web eats TV.But selling the streaming rights alongside the television rights makes sense as it allows the league to analyze the kind of viewership that the streams keep for higher quality matchups in primetime, instead of low quality contests on Sunday morning.
Also, a key piece of this new contract will be regarding NFL Network. The league has made it clear that their network will not only simulcast games that carried on the winning network but also exclusively carry eight games that will be produced by the winner. Also, SBD reports this:
The RFP asks TV companies to outline a plan for how they would grow NFL Network should they win the package, through promotional efforts and added reach. At least one network exec floated the idea of potentially bidding to take over the channel’s cable carriage negotiations as a way to grow the network, but an NFL source said that is not what the league means by “growing" the network.The exclusive games are critical to the network considering that carrying games is a key piece of their carriage contracts with the cable providers and now as cord-cutting is starting to become a problem for cable networks (take a look at what it's been doing to ESPN), solidifying said network is now a priority going forward.
Regarding as to who could win the package, it is important to note that the NFL cared about more than just the highest bidder when determining the partner two years ago. CBS was able to win the TNF rights because they were willing to not only take over production of all contests, including those exclusively on NFL Network, but to have their top announcing team (Jim Nantz and Phil Simms) do every game. The other networks were not willing to make that commitment, and thus CBS won the rights. Now after two years with CBS, will the league be more willing to take the highest bidder regardless of what they bring to the table?
In the end, and despite talk that NBC will go hard after these rights, I still expect CBS to retain the rights. They have been a pretty good partner for the NFL for Thursdays these past two seasons and I think that gives them the inside track to keep the rights. That said, if one of the other networks blows them out of the water in the bidding, that familiarity may just go out the window.