An analyst is blaming a chunk of the broadcast networks'
ratings decline so far this season on the NFL's decision to air regular season
games on Thursday night in primetime on its own cable network.
With NFL Network's broadened distribution this season and a
new package of early season games, Thursday
Night Football accounts for about 1-3% of the 8% drop registered by the
broadcasters, according to Todd Juenger, senior analyst at Bernstein Research.
The NFL Network games are also the "biggest contributor" to slow ad growth at
ESPN reported this quarter, Juenger says.
"The NFL is a classic 'frenemy' to the TV networks: while it provides their single most powerful
programming engine, it also exacts a toll of some $6 billion a year in rights
fees," Juenger says in a new report Monday. "Now the NFL is taking another
sizeable bite out of its network partners' economics, as the NFL Network has
gained essentially full distribution and now carries 13 Thursday night games."
The NFL Network collects about $20 million worth of ad
revenue per game, Juenger estimates. But he adds that the ad revenue impact on
the broadcast networks is less severe because 50% of broadcast primetime
advertising comes from categories that don't advertise on the NFL Network.
Juenger also notes that now that because the NFL Network had
games in the second half of the football season for the past few years,
comparisons going forward should be more normal, meaning less disruption in the