NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The 2014 NFL schedule release provided a much-needed fix for football fans across the country. For the television networks and secondary ticket market however, the stakes were much higher. Just a few months ago, CBS (CBS) won the network war to claim the NFL's Thursday Night Football package for this upcoming season.
For their victory, CBS is given the rights to eight early season Thursday Night Football games, which will be simulcast on NFL Network, while NFL Network retains the right to the final eight games. This will mark the first time since 2006, when Disney's (DIS) ABC moved Monday Night Football to its sister network, ESPN, that a broadcast network will air NFL games on a weeknight.
But while the big television contract is exactly what the NFL had in mind when it crafted the Thursday Night Football package two years ago, the prime time NFL ratings war is largely dependent on the match-ups that the league hands out to each network. Using currently available secondary market ticket-pricing data from TiqIQ as an indicator of demand and proxy for ratings, it appears that NBC's Sunday Night Football came out well ahead of its Thursday and Monday Night counterparts.
Perhaps the two largest factors in secondary market ticket demand are team competitiveness and market size. These factors also have a large influence on TV ratings. In this respect, Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC hit a home run with their slate of 15 Sunday Night Football games. All but one of the games features at least one playoff team from last season, while the Week 12 match-up between the Giants and Cowboys is a classic divisional rivalry between two massive markets.
This has resulted in an average secondary market ticket price of $386.72 for Sunday night Football games, by far the highest of the three prime time packages. Comparatively, the Monday Night Football package offers five games that do not involve any playoff teams from last season, while Thursday Night Football features seven. The average secondary market ticket prices for MNF and TNF are $307.60 and $308.01, respectively. These figures reflect a premium for SNF tickets of over 25%.
Sunday Night Football also holds the distinction of currently having the highest priced prime-time game of the season on the secondary market, which is the Week 9 showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field. Steelers tickets are typically among the most expensive in football, and with an average price of $464.05, this game is currently the most expensive on the Steelers schedule.
The Steelers also currently hold the most expensive Monday Night Football game when they play host to the Houston Texans in Week 7. At an average price of $390.86, that game is easily the most expensive game on the Texans schedule though it ranks second for the Steelers. This makes the Steelers one of the highest priced teams during prime time games this season.
The Steelers find themselves behind the San Francisco 49ers, who are the most expensive team in prime time thanks to a new stadium. Sunday Night Football in Week 2 will host the first game at the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara against the Chicago Bears. Both 49ers tickets and Bears tickets are commanding a significant premium on the secondary market in the early going, and at an average price of $545.30, Levi's inaugural game on the 49ers schedule is no exception.
Levi's Stadium will also play host to the most expensive Thursday Night Football game of the season, which is the 49ers Week 13 contest against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. This game also gets an added boost from being the third game of the Thanksgiving triple-header. At an average price of $452.34, Seahawks tickets are currently the most expensive in football and this game is the most expensive of the NFL season. Tickets for the game are currently listed at an average of $657.35 on the secondary market, making it also the most expensive game on the 49ers schedule as they look to avenge last season's NFC Championship Game loss.
When it comes to NFL games, you get what you pay for as those attending this battle for NFC West supremacy will be paying 354.4% more than those going to the least expensive primetime game of the season. With an average ticket price of $137.68, that game would be the Week 16 matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
Given that both Titans and Jaguars tickets are among the least expensive in football, CBS is probably quite happy that they didn't purchase this game as it falls into the second half of the TNF package airing on NFL Network. Also quite happy: Jaguars fans -- those with NFL Network at least, as the prime time cable scheduling means that they will actually be able to watch this game as opposed to having it blacked out locally.
When it comes to the amount of money paid by each network to broadcast these games, NBC could also be considered the winner. With the deal signed in 2011, the network pays about $950 million per year for the Sunday Night Football package, along with select playoff games and the primetime game on Thanksgiving.
ESPN pays more than double that annually at $1.9 billion per year, though ESPN's package includes much more on the digital side than just television broadcasting rights. CBS paid just $250 million for eight Thursday night games for just 2014. That equates to just $500 million for a full year of games, but also features the worst slate of primetime matchups.