CBS To Air 8 NFL Network Games

Hoping to gain a greater share of viewers on Thursday night against other broadcast networks, CBS has grabbed a piece of the coveted NFL Thursday Night Football package of games.

CBS will air eight early-season games, which will be simulcast on NFL Network. Then in the second half of the season, NFL Network will televise eight late-season games, of which two will be on Saturday. Analysts believe that in keeping some of the games on NFL Network, the cable channel can continue to charge high subscriber fees to TV providers.

Financial details weren't disclosed. But analysts believe the package cost CBS around $250 million to $300 million.

NFL Network has aired Thursday night football games since 2006, gradually expanding from eight in 2006 to 13 games in 2013. The NFL Network averaged 8 million TV viewers for its 13-game slate for the 2013 season -- up 10% from the year before.

Increasingly, some analysts believe the games had an effect on non-sports TV broadcast network programming on the night -- especially with the NFL Network now grown to 72 million subscribers.

Still, this deal has Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research at Horizon Media, scratching his head:  “That's surprising, since they have been focusing on ramping up Thursday with comedies. This season has been pretty successful,” he says. “Plus, they lost the U.S. Open tennis and a lot of [NCAA’s] March Madness to cable [Turner Broadcasting]. Clearly, they see the value of the NFL.”

Unlike other NFL packages, the deal is only for one year, with an additional year at the NFL’s option. CBS already airs the NFL’s Sunday package of AFC conference games. Financial terms were not disclosed.

CBS already easily wins Thursday night with its top-rated “Big Bang Theory” sitcom and other programming. Other regular Thursday night CBS programming “The Millers,” “The Crazy Ones,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Elementary.” CBS will have a hand in all the Thursday night games, as the full slate of 16 regular-season games will be produced by CBS with its lead broadcasters and production team, including Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, on all Thursday night games.

NFL Network hosts and analysts will be featured in the pregame, halftime and postgame shows along with CBS Sports announcers.



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