CBS won a bidding war to air eight early season Thursday night National Football League games during the 2014 season. The games will be simulcast on NFL Network. NFL Network will also televise eight late-season games in the run-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, including Jim Nantz and Phil Sims, on all Thursday night games. In a new twist, NFL Network hosts and analysts will be featured in the pregame, halftime and postgame shows along with CBS Sports announcers.
The agreement is for the 2014 season with an additional year at the NFL’s option.
“NFL Network built Thursday into a night for NFL fans,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Our goal is to bring these games to more fans on broadcast television with unprecedented promotion and visibility for Thursday Night Football on CBS.”
“We are very pleased to build on our outstanding partnership with the NFL by expanding our coverage to Thursday nights,” said CBS CEO Les Moonves. “CBS is a premium content company and the NFL represents the best premium content there is. I look forward to all this new deal will do for us not only on Thursday nights, but across our entire schedule.”
CBS, which competed against NBC, Fox, ESPN and TBS, had been considered a long shot at the outset of the bidding because of its strong Thursday night lineup, which includes “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and A Half Men.”
The bidding was less than $300 million for the single-season contract, which includes a one-year option at the NFL’s choice, according to Reuters. Prices were lower than they might have been for such a prized property because the CBS games will simultaneously telecast on the NFL Network.
“This is about making a strong night even stronger,” said CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves in an interview with Reuters. “This adds 32 great hours at a pretty reasonable price.”
Moonves said the NFL games, which will be telecast early in the coming season, give CBS the ability to use its strong Thursday programs on other nights and help new shows gain an audience. The network’s regular Thursday night lineup likely would start around 11/1.