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NFL downplays talk of axing Thursday Night Football

American football league the NFL has moved to reject talk that it could seek to scrap, or scale back, its Thursday Night Football franchise.

NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk website said the NFL has realised that with every team playing once on a short week each season, many of the Thursday games therefore have a reduced appeal. It also said that adding extra prime-time games to the Sunday/Monday line-up has worked to saturate the marketplace with stand-alone evening games.

Pro Football Talk said options open to the league include axing Thursday Night Football completely or starting the package at Thanksgiving and continuing it through the end of the season. However, in a statement issued to broadcaster CNBC, the NFL said: “We are fully committed to ‘Thursday Night Football’ and any reports to the contrary are unfounded.”

The NFL in February struck new two-season deals for Thursday Night Football, continuing its partnership with CBS while also adding rival US network NBC as a partner. The new broadcast deals have expanded Thursday Night Football for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Both CBS and NBC will broadcast five games, growing the package to 10 broadcast games in 2016 and 2017 from eight in 2014 and 2015.

In April, the NFL also selected social media company Twitter as its exclusive partner to deliver a live over-the-top digital stream of Thursday Night Football games to a global audience across all devices and for free during the course of the 2016 regular season.

Twitter is streaming the 10 Thursday Night Football games broadcast by NBC and CBS, which are also simulcast on cable television broadcaster NFL Network, securing the league’s targeted ‘tri-cast’ distribution model of broadcast, cable and digital platforms.

The NFL didn’t expand Thursday Night Football to the entire regular season schedule until 2012 and from 2006 to 2010 there were no games held on that evening before November. The Minnesota Vikings will take on the Dallas Cowboys in this week’s edition of Thursday Night Football.