Fox pays over $3 billion for Thursday Night Football rights: source

(Reuters) – Twenty First Century Fox Inc’s Fox Sports has agreed to pay over $3 billion to broadcast the National Football League’s “Thursday Night Football,” for the next five seasons, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters Wednesday.

The agreement, which was announced Wednesday morning without financial terms, demonstrates how Twenty First Century Fox is aiming to be a leader in sports after it closes its deal with Walt Disney Co.

In December, Disney announced a $52.4 billion agreement to buy the bulk of Fox’s assets, leaving sports and news to the remaining Fox company.

“These opportunities come very infrequently,” said Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox on a media call Wednesday. “You either have the rights to the most watched content in media and if you lose that action and don’t take that opportunity, this won’t come up for another five years.”

Fox shares were down 2.52 percent or 97 cents at $37.49 in late morning trade.

Under the five year deal, Fox will be paying about $60 million per game, up from the $45 million per game CBS Corp and Comcast Corp’s NBC was paying for broadcast rights this season, according to the source.

The source was not permitted to speak to the media and so wished to remain anonymous.

Executives at Fox and the NFL declined to comment on financial terms of the deal in a call Wednesday.

The NFL and Fox are looking for a digital partner to live-stream the games, Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner said on the call, noting that it had received multiple bids and expects an announcement soon.

The NFL has not yet decided on how long a digital deal would be, he said.

Fox is taking on Thursday night football at a time of declining ratings and advertising.

Advertising revenue declined 1.2 percent during the 2017 regular NFL season, according to Standard Media Index.

Despite this, Fox is optimistic Thursday night football will help Fox grow its business, Rice said on the call.

“Every deal we have done, people have said that we overpaid and every single point we have built up our business,” Rice said. “I think we get tremendous value here.”

The five-year deal allows Fox Sports to broadcast 11 games between weeks 4 and 15 (excluding Thanksgiving night). It will be simultaneously broadcast via NFL Network and will be distributed in Spanish on FOX Deportes.

In addition, NFL Network will exclusively broadcast seven games next season, with FOX producing the full slate of 18 games.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Andrew Hay

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