National Football League owners have decided to place a new late-season, eight-game package of Thursday and Saturday games on their NFL Network beginning next season, passing on a rights fee in exchange for the chance to build up the fledgling NFL Network.
The package will begin by adding a third game on Thanksgiving (there have traditionally been two), and is expected to include a total of five Thursdays and three Saturdays this year.Comcast's Outdoor Life Network was said to be a strong suitor for the package, which insiders say could have commanded $400 million - $500 million dollars.ESPN's John Skipper told B&C recently his network had no intention of purchasing the package just to keep it from Comcast, which would have used the NFL to help transition OLN into a more mainstream sports network, or perhaps partner with the NFL in creating a new network. Turner Sports had dropped out of contention last year, after the price tag hit what a Turner executive called "silly money." NBC Universal and News Corp. were at one time also said to have been involved in negotiations.NFL owners had reportedly been debating for months about whether to sell the package or use the games to buoy the two-year-old NFL Network, which is currently in only about 40 million homes.The move is the latest major sports rights acquisition for a niche sports network looking to boost its subscriber base. OLN is in its first year of carrying the National Hockey League, while Comcast also recently acquired exclusive cable rights to the PGA Tour for its Golf Channel.