Bidders circle NFL’s Thursday Night Football rights

US media companies 21st Century Fox and Walt Disney are pursuing the Thursday Night Football rights package being marketed by American football league the NFL, according to Bloomberg.

The news agency said 21st Century Fox has submitted a bid involving its broadcast network Fox and cable television channel Fox Sports 1, with the intention of keeping all games on Thursday evenings.

Disney is also said to have made a bid that could put Thursday Night Football games on the ABC network.

Disney last month sealed a $52.4bn (€43.78bn) deal to acquire a significant share of Fox’s business interests, but this pact excludes the Fox network and Fox Sports 1.

Thursday Night Football has come under fire amid criticism over declining viewer interest, the quality of the match-ups and recovery time for players. Bloomberg said some bidders have proposed changes to the package, including only scheduling teams who have had more than a week of rest or moving a couple of games to other days of the week.

The NFL issued a request for proposal concerning its Thursday Night Football rights package last month, with the document reportedly outlining that a contract could be solely sealed by an online streaming provider for the first time.

The RFP was issued before Christmas, with the NFL seeking responses for a contract that would take effect from the 2018 season. The 2017 season has seen e-commerce and media company Amazon become a Thursday Night Football partner for the first time.

The Amazon Prime service has served as the NFL’s exclusive partner to deliver a live OTT digital stream of Thursday Night Football to a global audience across devices during the 2017 season.

Amazon Prime Video has streamed the 10 Thursday Night Football games broadcast by NBC and CBS, which were also simulcast on NFL Network, once again securing the league's tri-cast model of broadcast (NBC/CBS), cable (NFL Network), and digital (Amazon Prime Video) distribution.

Bloomberg said all three current rights-holders plan to return to the bidding table, albeit at varying levels of interest. CBS and NBC paid a combined $450m to air 10 games in 2017, while Amazon added $50m for the online streaming rights.

The NFL is reportedly set to make a decision on the rights in the week before or after the Super Bowl on February 4.