The NFL Network's monopoly on Thursday night football may come to an end beginning next season. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported that the NFL has begun shopping a one-year contract for its midweek game, and that the NFL Network is expected to split the Thursday night schedule with a second network.
Ourand mentioned Turner, FOX (and possibly the new FOX Sports 1) and NBC as the potential frontrunners. This season, there were 13 games broadcast under the "Thursday Night Football" banner, spanning Weeks 2 through 15. The Week 1 season-opener aired on NBC; the league's three-game Thanksgiving Day slate was split across three other networks; and there are no Thursday nighters in Weeks 16 or 17.
Per CBS' Jason La Canfora, the league is looking for a bid in the neighborhood of $800 million for some unannounced portion of the Thursday night calendar.
Added La Canfora: "This has always been the plan: to use the full-season package to get higher carriage fees and get on Time Warner Cable, then sell off half the package."
The league announced in December that this season's set of Thursday night games broke its previous viewership record -- the average audience of eight million people per game was 10 percent higher than in 2012. The Week 3 matchup between Kansas City and Philadelphia stood as the highest-rated "Thursday Night Football" broadcast in the eight-year history of the NFL Network's event. Earlier this season, the Wall Street Journal reported that the league may explore adding a second Thursday game per week, with Netflix mentioned among the possible broadcast partners there. That development does not appear to be included as part of the potential upcoming change.