CBS has won the network derby to claim the NFL's Thursday Night Football package.
In a stunning announcement, CBS will become the first broadcast network to air live NFL games on a weeknight since ABC moved Monday Night Football to ESPN in 2006. The deal is only for one year (with a league option for a second) and gives CBS rights to 8 early season Thursday night games, which will also be simulcast on NFL Network. This is what the shield was looking for all along and is the ultimate win-win for the league. Not only do they own another major TV night in the fall, but they also keep live games on NFL Network with the unique simulcast arrangement.
NFL Network will exclusively air the final 8 games in the package late in the season, which will include 2 Saturday night football games, presumably after the college football season has concluded. The NFL did not have any Saturday night games this year, so we can all welcome back the return of Thursday Night Football Special Editions on Saturdays.
Interestingly, NFL Network talent will be intermingled with CBS Sports talent for studio coverage before and after the game and at halftime. Also, CBS says their lead announce team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will announce all Thursday night games. It remains to be seen what happens with Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock or which talent from either network will be used for studio coverage.
UPDATE: AA has learned that plans are in place for Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to work a partial slate of Sunday afternoon games for CBS in addition to the Thursday Night package. It's likely that Nantz & Simms will work most CBS games that will air in the 4:25 ET national window, but the pair will have some Sundays off. It's not known at this time who will pick up CBS's top Sunday game when Nantz and Simms only work Thursdays or Saturdays.
This is a huge win for CBS as the NFL is the best thing going on television right now and all the major networks were competing for this package. It'll be interesting to see the impact on CBS's primetime lineup as The Big Bang Theory and other popular shows currently air on CBS Thursdays, but for right now they can celebrate the biggest victory of the NFL offseason so far.
UPDATE II: The NFL now says the two Saturday games will take place during a Week 16 doubleheader. Presumably, both of those games will air on NFL Network but given the fluid nature of this announcement, don't set that in stone just yet.