NFL and CBS renew 'Thursday Night Football' deal

NFL and CBS renew pact for 'Thursday Night Football'

CBS might have gotten a few duds last fall in its "Thursday Night Football" package, but the NFL more than made up for it by awarding the network another season of prime-time football.

The NFL and CBS on Sunday announced they were extending their partnership for "Thursday Night Football" through the 2015 season. The NFL has the option to renew the pact with CBS for 2016.

"It's a good day for CBS Sports," Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports said Sunday in an interview with The Times.

CBS' prime-time package -- which will cost the network a little more than $300 million for next season -- provides broadcast rights for eight Thursday night games during the first half of the season.

Those games will be simulcast on the NFL Network.

As part of the deal, CBS Sports will produce eight additional prime-time contests, called by CBS Sports announcers, that will be broadcast exclusively on the NFL Network during the second half of the season.

The two companies also will develop new programming to run on the NFL Network and CBS' various platforms.

"We are pleased to extend our partnership with CBS for 'Thursday Night Football,'" NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "We look forward to working again next season with CBS."

Last season was something of a test case for the NFL and CBS. The league wanted to carve out Thursday as another lucrative franchise, and it selected CBS -- the nation's most-watched network -- over competitive bids from rivals NBC, Fox and Walt Disney Co.

The other networks were eager to land the franchise, and had hoped the NFL's deal with CBS would span only one year.

But the NFL opted to remain with CBS, and about 10 days ago told the broadcast giant that it would extend the deal. The two sides spent much of last week hammering out terms.

The new arrangement is more expensive for CBS (last season it paid about $275 million for the package) but CBS came away with rights to eight consecutive Thursday night games in September and October. 

Last year CBS aired seven Thursday games early in the season and one Saturday night game in late December.

"This gives us another high-profile game in the middle of the season," McManus said.  He said the lopsided games that CBS broadcast last fall did not factor into the renewal equation.

"The games are what they are," McManus said. "We had set out a very specific set of goals with the NFL -- to provide a promotional and branding platform, and to bring high production values to the games, which we did."

Although several of the Thursday match-ups were blowouts, producing less than spectacular ratings for CBS, most games brought in more than 16 million viewers. The big audiences included a heavy concentration of men and families who watched the action live -- a boon in an era of shrinking audiences and increased use of ad-skipping devices.

The expensive NFL package brought other benefits for CBS, including a powerful promotional vehicle to advertise the network's other shows and the ability to offer more nights of original programming to viewers throughout the year.

"The overall goal was to establish Thursday night as a viewing destination for the NFL and we certainly increased the viewership," McManus said.

By some estimates, the ratings CBS achieved last fall were 300% higher than Thursday games that played on the NFL cable network in 2013.

The new deal does not include digital broadcast rights to the games, meaning that CBS' new streaming service still will lack live NFL prime-time action.

CBS also is scheduled to broadcast the Super Bowl in February 2016, which will be the 50th Super Bowl. That game is set for Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT


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