As you’re aware by now, CBS and NFL Network will air the 16-game Thursday Night Football package in 2014. Last week at the Television Critics Association meeting in Los Angeles, we got a little glimpse of what we’ll see on the expanded schedule.
Here’s what we know about the new Thursday Night Football.
Thursday Night Football will consist of division rivalry games. And in the CBS portion of the schedule from Weeks 2 through 8, you’ll see matchups like Pittsburgh at Baltimore, New York Giants at Washington, New York Jets at New England and San Diego at Denver.
In the NFL Network portion, the schedule is weaker with games like Cleveland at Cincinnati and Buffalo at Miami. But the schedule is a giant improvement from past years.
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms all season
CBS will produce the games and even when it’s not airing the second half of Thursday Night Football, it will be a CBS production crew at the helm of the controls. It means Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will call the entire Thursday Night Fotoball schedule. Sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson will join the crew and cover the NFL full-time. In the first half of the season, CBS and NFL Network will simulcast the games from Weeks 2-8.
Any mention of “Redskins”?
Speaking to the TCA participants, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said it will be up to the individual announcers if they want to mention “Redskins” when Washington is on the network. On Thursday Night Football, Washington will be on Week 4 when it hosts the Giants. It’ll be up to Nantz and Simms if they want to mention the mascot. And Washington is on again in Week 16 as part of a Saturday night doubleheader. CBS will either air Philadelphia at Washington or San Diego at San Francisco.
What about the Season Opener and Thanksgiving Night games?
How about the NFL season opener which will be Green Bay at Seattle and the Thanksgiving Night Game between San Francisco and Seattle. Aren’t those played on Thursday Night as well? Will they be on CBS/NFL Network?
No. NBC purchased the Season Opener when it returned to the NFL in 2006 and bought the rights to the Thanksgiving Night Game in 2012. They belong to NBC and will remain with the Peacock through the duration of this new TV contract.
Any games in 3-D?
No. McManus told the TCA, “What we found out was, it’s really not a very good way to watch a sporting event, with the camera moving back and forth quickly. The reception that we got was very lukewarm. ESPN made the decision not to pursue it. We made the decision…not to pursue it. I don’t think you’ll see anybody in the near future or perhaps the distant future really pursuing 3-D coverage.”
But McManus pointed out that the future is 4K, super high-definition and the camera that flies over the field providing overhead shots will be in 4K for the first time. Whether you’ll be able to notice a difference is up to your individual vision.
McManus said there will be a camera hovering over the goal line to give better views of scoring plays.
CBS expects good ratings from Thursday Night Football. CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves said “This is a sure thing.” Will it get better ratings than NBC’s Sunday Night Football? Time will tell, however, advertisers are treating TNF a notch higher than ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
Will CBS keep TNF Beyond This Year?
It has a one-year contract and a one-year option. The NFL can put the games back up for bid in 2015. What’s interesting is that CBS was not the high bidder for the package paying $275 million for the schedule in what was expected to be a $400 million pricetag. It fought off bids from Turner, ESPN, NBC and Fox to win the contract.
CBS is hoping to make Thursday Night Football into a long-term franchise, but it’s using the 2014 season as an audition for the NFL. Under this contract, CBS will not get any extra postseason games. We’ll see if CBS is able to keep TNF and get any new playoff games in any future deal.
So as we enter the new season, Thursday Night Football will have a new look, new announcers and a stronger schedule. How it translates in ratings and viewership for CBS will be the next story to follow.