CBS and The National Football League agreed to renew a deal that gives CBS the right to air eight pro-football games on Thursday nights, a pact that will give CBS the ability to air NFL match-ups twice a week leading up to its 2016 broadcast of the fiftieth Super Bowl.
The agreement also dampens speculation over whether a rival media company might snatch up rights to the big-ratings programming for the fall. At a time when new video-streaming technology gives viewers the chance to watch their favorite programming in new fashion, TV sports remain one of the few types of content that continues to lure audiences in truly mass fashion.
CBS will broadcast the first eight ‘Thursday Night Football” games, which will, as they were in 2014, be simulcast on NFL Network. In 2014, CBS was not able to broadcast eight consecutive weekly games, meaning the network gains slightly more continuity early in the TV season. NFL Network will also exclusively televise eight games leading up to the playoffs. The mix of games will include 14 on Thursday nights and two late-season games on Saturday.
The full slate of 16 regular-season games will be produced by CBS with its lead broadcasters and production team on all Thursday night games. The pregame, halftime and postgame shows will continue to feature NFL Network and CBS Sports hosts and analysts.
The agreement is for the 2015 season, with an additional year at the NFL’s option – meaning CBS will have to face the prospect that the League could cast about for a longer-term deal with a competitor at that time. The cost of the package for 2015 is said to be “slightly higher” than the $275 million to $300 million CBS paid for 2014, according to a person familiar with the situation.
All eight games broadcast via CBS and NFL Network were the most-watched programs in primetime for that night across all networks. At the same time, the Thursday-night broadcast has not matched the ratings of NBC’s juggernaut “Sunday Night Football.”
The disparity shows in the prices each network sought for the games earlier this year: NBC charged an average of $628,000 for a 30-second commercial for “SNF” in 2014 while CBS asked an average of $492,000 for the Thursday-night games, according to a Variety survey of commercial prices for the 2014-2015 TV season.