February 5, 2014

SKEDBALL: Are You Ready For Some Thursday Night CBS Football?

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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CBS has won the competition to carry 8 fall NFL games on Thursday nights.  Price wasn’t disclosed, but the network is believed to be paying in the neighborhood of $300M for the games, or about $37.5M per game.  (All the broadcast networks and several cablers bid for the rights, as reportedly did Google.)  In addition, CBS will produce not only its own games, but the 6 Thursday night games for the remainder of the season that will continue to air on NFL Network (NFL Network will also simulcast the CBS games), as well as 2 Saturday night NFL Network games.  (CBS announcers will only appear on its own games.)  SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL, of course, is the single most-watched series in network primetime, so while CBS is paying a high price, it’s guaranteed enormous viewership.

One wrinkle of the deal is that it runs for only a single season, with the NFL having the option to extend for an additional year.  Essentially, the NFL is using the 2014 games to prove how valuable and high-rated they’re going to be (as NFL games go, those on NFL Network are comparatively little-watched), and then look for a truly gigantic payday by opening up the bidding for a multi-year deal that would kick in in 2015.

What’s unclear for now is how this will affect CBS’s Thursday scheduling.  Since the games will only occupy the first 2 months of the TV season, CBS could choose simply to push its regular programming to November, allowing it to air blockbuster THE BIG BANG THEORY and the rest of the line-up with relatively few reruns for the rest of the season.  On the other hand, particularly because Big Bang reruns score extremely well, the network could decide that keeping Big Bang off the air for 2 months is a waste of a giant asset, so it could move Big Bang, either temporarily or permanently, to another night–to kick off How I Met Your Mother-less Mondays, for example, giving a huge lead-in to what will be a damaged night.  The ball, as it were, is in CBS’s court–or on its side of the field.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."