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CBS doubles its NFL pleasure with new Thursday night package next season


Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will helm new Thursday night NFL package. CBS photo

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CBS has doubled down on NFL football in a new deal that will give the network Thursday night games for the first half of the 2014 season.

The arrangement also makes CBS a full partner with cable’s NFL Network, which will simulcast the first eight games of next season. NFL network then will be the exclusive network for eight later season games, but the CBS A-team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be in the booth for all 16 games. The league says that NFL Network will be home to six Thursday night games and two-late season matchups on Saturday.

CBS’ partnership with NFL Network is similar to the ongoing ABC/ESPN arrangement, only in reverse. In that case, the cable network produces sports programming for ABC. In this case, CBS will produce the NFL games for its new cable partner while also retaining its Sunday afternoon NFL package. The Thursday night arrangement so far is only for the 2014 season, “with an additional year at the NFL’s option,” according to a publicity release.

“CBS is a premium content company and the NFL represents the best premium content there is,” CBS Corp. present and CEO Leslie Moonves said in a statement. “I look forward to all this new deal will do for us not only on Thursday nights, but across our entire schedule.”

Prime-time’s most popular comedy series, The Big Bang Theory, currently leads off CBS’ Thursday schedule. The night also accommodates Two and a Half Men, two first-year sitcoms -- The Millers and The Crazy Ones -- and the popular Elementary drama series. All five shows will either have to be moved to new nights or delayed until later next season. In the case of Two and a Half Men, The Millers and The Crazy Ones, cancellation is also an option.

The CBS/NFL Network deal comes on the heels of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII ranking as television’s most-watched program ever (with 112.2 million viewers) despite being a 43-8 blowout win by Seattle over Denver.

Live television events, ranging from the NFL to the Golden Globes to the Grammys, increasingly are in vogue during times of both audience fragmentation and increasing use of “social media” such as Twitter and Facebook. Real-time tweeting ramps up during such events, making them resistant to DVR recording for later viewing. Networks and advertisers still prefer television viewing at appointed hours. DVR playback also is very likely to include skipping through commercials.

CBS and NBC now will both have prime-time showcases for the NFL, with the Peacock’s Sunday package again ranking No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings this season. NBC’s Sunday Night Football remains the NFL’s showcase event, but CBS now will have the bigger NFL presence with weekly games on two nights of the week.

ABC, once a pathfinder with its Monday Night Football franchise, remains the only Big Four broadcast network without any NFL games.
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