NFL Expands Thursday Night Football: NBC Nabs Five Games, CBS and NFL Network Remain in Mix
Under new rights agreement, CBS and NBC will broadcast five Thursday Night Football games, while NFL Network will simulcast all games an carry eight games exclusively
The NFL will expand Thursday Night Football in 2016 and 2017, continuing its partnership with CBS while also adding NBC as a partner. Both CBS and NBC will broadcast five Thursday Night Football games, growing the package to 10 broadcast games in 2016 and 2017 from eight in 2014 and 2015. All Thursday Night Football broadcast games will continue to be simulcast on NFL Network. NFL Network will also exclusively televise an eight-game schedule of regular season games comprised of Thursday Night Football, late-season games on Saturday, and additional games to be determined. Both CBS and NBC will produce Thursday Night Football with their lead broadcasters and production teams, and both will contribute to the production of Thursday Night Football exclusively on NFL Network.
CBS and NFL Network will televise the first half of the Thursday Night Football schedule with NBC and NFL Network televising the second half. According to multiple reports, CBS and NBC will pay a combined $450 million per season. CBS paid $300 million for eight games in 2015.
The NFL is in active discussions with prospective digital partners for OTT streaming rights to Thursday Night Football. A deal announcement is expected in the near future.
“We are continuing to make Thursday Night Football bigger and better. CBS has played an integral role over the last two seasons in helping build Thursdays as a night for NFL football, and we’re excited to have them on board again,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “At the same time, we’re thrilled to add NBC to the Thursday Night Football mix, a trusted partner with a proven track record of success broadcasting NFL football in primetime, and look forward to expanding with a digital partner for what will be a unique tri-cast on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms.”
In terms of scheduling (according to the New York Times Richard Sandomir), NBC will retain the NFL Kickoff game on Thursday in Week 1, CBS will show five Thursday night games starting in Week 2, and NBC will follow with five games starting in Week 11 (NBC will also air Thanksgiving Day game that is not a part of the new contract). NFL Network will exclusively carry all remaining Thursday Night and late-season Saturday games.
“Our mission when we first put games on Thursday nights in 2006 was to work strategically to make Thursdays a night for NFL football in the mold of what Monday and Sunday nights mean to millions of fans across the country,” said Robert Kraft, Chairman of the NFL’s Broadcast Committee. “We’ve made great strides since that point, and growing the base of games with CBS, now with NBC, and soon with digital streaming will only help us solidify this night in the consciousness of NFL fans here and globally.”
“The CBS Corporation and the CBS Television Network are extremely pleased to continue our successful partnership with the NFL on Thursday nights,” said Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS. “Thursday Night Football has provided extremely valuable programming and a powerful promotional platform to help launch CBS’s primetime schedule, contributing to our standing as the perennial Number One and most-watched network. Broadcasting the first half of the Thursday Night Football schedule is a terrific way to jump start the 2016-17 television season. We look forward to another great year of the NFL on CBS on both Thursdays and Sundays.”
“The NFL has the most powerful programming on television, and we are delighted to expand our primetime schedule to 24 regular season games,” said Steve Burke, CEO, NBC Universal. “Thursday Night Football is an important addition to NBC’s #1 ranked primetime lineup, and the perfect complement to our award winning Sunday Night Football broadcast. The NFL is a terrific partner, and we could not be more pleased about expanding our relationship.”
Thursday Night Football started in 2006 with an eight game schedule exclusively on NFL Network. By 2012, Thursday Night Football had grown to a 13-game schedule exclusively on NFL Network, where it remained through the 2013 season. For both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, CBS partnered with NFL Network to present an expanded 16-game Thursday Night Football schedule.
For the 16 games of the 2015 schedule, Thursday Night Football on CBS and NFL Network (and over-the-air stations) averaged a 7.9 HH rating and 13.0M viewers, up +59% and +61% respectively from 2013 when the games were solely on NFL Network. The 2015 season was the most-watched and highest-rated Thursday Night Football season ever.