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CBS Lands NFL's 8-Game Thursday Night Deal
Washington, D.C. (February 5, 2014) - CBS surprised the TV industry today by snagging a deal with the National Football League to air eight Thursday night games during the upcoming 2014 regular season.
Advertising Week reported a week ago that NBC appeared to be close to securing the agreement, but the league announced today that CBS won the contract. The eight game schedule will be taken from the NFL Network, which will simulcast the games and continue to exclusively broadcast eight other regular season games.
CBS also edged out such powerful network rivals as Fox, ESPN and Turner, but NBC will likely take the defeat the hardest. The network was looking for a powerful programming force such as the NFL to revive its once-dominant Thursday night lineup which has collapsed in recent years due to a number of low-rated comedies.
The NFL said CBS' eight-game package will be mostly "early-season" Thursday night games, In addition to the network's Thursday night broadcasts, it will produce the remaining eight games of the Thursday night package that will air exclusively on the NFL Network. That means the network's top announcing team, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, will broadcast all 16 games.
The league said the 16 games will also include two Saturday games, but it's unclear if CBS will air those. The contract with CBS is for one year. The NFL will hold an option year for 2015.
The Thursday night package -- coupled with CBS' normal Sunday schedule of AFC games -- will make the network an even more formidable foe when it negotiates new programming agreements with TV providers. It will be difficult for any cable or satellite operator to say no to what CBS demands in fees.
"We are very pleased to build on our outstanding partnership with the NFL by expanding our coverage to Thursday nights," said CBS CEO Les Moonves in a statement. "CBS is a premium content company and the NFL represents the best premium content there is. I look forward to all this new deal with do for us not only on Thursday nights, but across our entire schedule."
Thursday night is also the home of The Big Bang Theory on CBS, a highly-rated sitcom. The network could move the show to Monday night, its former time slot, or it could air it at 8 p.m. on Thursday to precede the NFL game.
Update: Variety reports that Moonves said Wednesday afternoon that The Big Bang Theory could stay on Thursday nights, but that the network's regular Thursday night lineup would not begin until November when the NFL package has run out. He said the network needed to review the situation before making a final decision.
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