Despite much criticism regarding product quality and allegations of offering "too much football", the NFL's Thursday Night Football (TNF) will indeed return this season. In fact, Fox Sports signed a massive $650 million per year, 5-year deal for the broadcast rights to what has become a widely-criticized example of the NFL saturating the airwaves with too much low quality football. But rather than succumb to public pressure and in the midst of a pretty sizable drop in viewership over the past few years, the league has decided that offering less football is not a good way to increase revenue. And yet for many viewers, the games have been unwatchable.
Indeed Fox has vowed that there will be better quality match-ups this year, but much depends on the NFL's quirky scheduling rules as well as the inconvenience of teams having to travel and play games on only a few days rest. These games are highly unpopular with players, but with Thursday viewership still being very, very high when compared with other prime time programming, there is little doubt that advertisers will line up to fill the available advertising inventory. And Fox is promising advertisers something called "better ad placement" this year, which sounds really nice.
But if viewership continues to fall over the next few years, so should the prices as well as the demand for ad space. And eventually, the league may decide that a bit of scarcity might be better than saturating the market and dump TNF altogether. Indeed the NFL has proven to be a very resilient product over the years, so let's see if the changes have a positive effect on ratings.
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