The Thursday Night Football contract is unlike any other in the NFL. While the shield is locked up well into the next decade with Fox, NBC, ESPN, and CBS for Sundays and Mondays, the new TNF deal signed last winter between the NFL and CBS was only a one year contract. With that short-term deal, the other networks might have hoped to get a piece of the lucrative primetime pie. Alas, they will not have a seat at that particular feast.
In what comes as no surprise, the NFL and CBS have agreed to a new contract for Thursday Night Football in 2015. Interestingly, the terms of the deal (at least in length) are exactly the same as the last time. It’s a one year contract with a league option for 2016. From the joint announcement:
The National Football League will continue its partnership with CBS to produce and televise THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL for the 2015 season, it was announced today by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corporation, and Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports.
CBS will broadcast the first eight THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL games, which also will be simulcast on NFL Network. NFL Network will also exclusively televise eight games leading up to the playoffs. The mix of games will include 14 on Thursday nights and two late-season games on Saturday.
The full slate of 16 regular-season games will be produced by CBS with its lead broadcasters and production team on all Thursday night games. The pregame, halftime and postgame shows will continue to feature NFL Network and CBS Sports hosts and analysts.
The agreement is for the 2015 season with an additional year at the NFL’s option.
So in 2015 Thursday Night Football will pretty much look exactly the same as it did in 2014. Half of the schedule will be CBS and NFL Network simulcasts while the other half will be NFL Network only. CBS will handle all of the production and you’ll likely see Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call once again. CBS and NFL Network will also two late season Saturday games in addition to the 14 scheduled Thursday night contests.
The ratings for Thursday Night Football in the CBS exclusive games were about what we expected – between Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football. TNF averaged 16.5 million viewers through the first half of the season on CBS and 12.3 million viewers overall for the 16 games, which are very good numbers.
It’s interesting to note that the NFL and CBS chose to go with another one year contract instead of brokering something long term or opening up the bidding. The contract is reminiscent of the continual one year deal CBS has with the Masters. And in this case, the NFL gets to keep quite a bit of leverage. As long as they’re happy with the ratings and producion (and most importantly as always to the NFL: money) with CBS, they’ll continue. Once they see an opportunity to expand on that revenue and exposure though, we might see the NFL open up Thursday Night Football to the highest bidder once again. Until then, the NFL and CBS will continue a partnership that seems to have been beneficial to both parties.