Analyst Calls CBS' NFL Deal a 'Defensive' Move

Bernstein's Juenger notes net already top-rated on Thursdays; USB's Janedis predicts brief return to Mondays for 'Big Bang Theory'
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CBS' deal for eight NFL games on Thursday nights next season bolsters what was an already-strong night for the top-rated broadcast network.

However, at least one analyst is scratching his head over the agreement, arguing that the deal may have been more about keeping those games away from a rival network, like NBC, which was reportedly the other front runner and certainly could have used the high ratings that football provides.

"It must be a defensive move," wrote Sanford C. Bernstein's Todd Juenger in a research note Wednesday, pointing out that CBS already boasts the night's top-rated lineup. "This deal hampers their ability to launch and maintain their entertainment lineup, which in turn puts their syndication pipeline at risk."

Juenger also argued that because the games will be simulcast on NFL Network it doesn't help CBS much in any upcoming retrans battles. "It doesn't strengthen CBS' retrans arguments, because the games will still be simulcast on the NFL Network."

UBS analyst John Janedis argued that CBS won out over NBC due to the network's positioning as the No. 1 network and the short-term nature of the deal.

The deal is currently just for the 2014 season, with the league having an option to renew for an additional year.

"While unclear, we think it's possible that the deal could become multi-year in nature," wrote Janedis. He also says the price of the games, which has been reported to be under $300 million, will allow CBS to make a small profit.

"The other benefit to CBS is that the deal will allow the network to take a meaningful amount of ad dollars from competing networks on Thursday night," he wrote.

Janedis predicts that the network will move The Big Bang Theory and possibly Two and a Half Men and Elementary to Mondays (which will need to fill at least one slot with How I Met Your Mother ending) during the first weeks of the season.

"This will allow for fewer repeats of the schedule during the broadcast season and ample promotion of the network during the games," Janedis wrote in a research note. "From an economic perspective, we assume CBS will book the ad revenue at both CBS/NFL Network, while the NFL will collect the rights fees."

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