Thursday Night Football in 2014 will be a coproduction between CBS and the National Football League. The top-rated broadcast network has landed the league's Thursday night package of games it was shopping.
The deal, announced on Wednesday, calls for CBS to air eight early season games that will also be simulcast on NFL Network (so the league-owned channel can maintain its high subscriber fee). NFL Network will solely air eight late-season games, two of which will be on Saturdays.
The agreement is for the 2014 season, with an option for an additional year, at the NFL's behest. Financial details were not disclosed.
The games will be produced by CBS with its lead broadcasters and production team—including Jim Nantz and Phil Simms—on all Thursday night games, meaning that the NFL Network will air its late-season games (that won't be shown on CBS) with CBS Sports' broadcasters. The announcers for the two Saturday games were not disclosed. NFL Network hosts and analysts will be featured in the pregame, halftime and post-game shows.
“We are very pleased to build on our outstanding partnership with the NFL by expanding our coverage to Thursday nights,” said CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves. “CBS is a premium content company and the NFL represents the best premium content there is. I look forward to all this new deal will do for us not only on Thursday nights but across our entire schedule.”
CBS' Thursday night lineup has been among the strongest for the network, led by its highest-rated show The Big Bang Theory. Wednesday's announcement means that it will either move some of those shows to other nights or delay their seasons until November (meaning fewer repeats, something the network has looked to do recently), when CBS would be finished airing the games.
CBS beat out the other reported leader for the package in NBC, who could've used Thursday Night Football to prop up its struggling Thursday schedule. Fox, ESPN (which would've put the games on ABC) and Turner all submitted bids as well.
"We were clearly interested in having Thursday Night Football at Fox in 2014, and submitted a bid that we were sure would be competitive with those offered by other parties. We had terrific dialogue with the NFL during the process, and we believe that the Thursday night franchise has great value going forward," said Fox in a statement. "While disappointed to learn that the league has decided to go in a different direction, we’re already looking forward to Sundays next season."
The NFL Network averaged 8 million viewers for its 13-game slate for the 2013 season—its fifth straight of record audiences—including contributions from the over-the-air stations that aired the games in the participating teams’ home markets.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)