The long-rumored (and yet long-denied by the NFL) Thursday night package has finally been sold. It's a strange semi-partnership between CBS and the NFL Network, and it promises quite the repercussions for your viewing experience.
The brass tacks: Bidding started well north of $200 million for a single season (with an NFL option for a second) and CBS eventually beat out Fox, NBC, ABC/ESPN, and Turner. But it wasn't quite a full package being bid on—of the 16 games, CBS will produce all of them but broadcast just eight, with the NFL Network airing the remainder (and simulcasting the CBS-aired games).
What this means:
- More Phil Simms and Jim Nantz. I hope you like them. (You don't.) CBS's lead broadcasting duo will call every game, even the ones on the NFL Network. But NFL Network talent will appear on the pregame, halftime, and postgame shows.
- The other networks' Thursday programming is about to get wrecked. Yes, Thursday games tend to be sloppy and boring, and yes, players hate them, but people watch. Despite NFL Network being available in only 72 million homes, Thursday Night Football invariably wins the night on cable, and comes close to the top-rated network shows. On CBS, it will dominate.
- The return of Saturday football! Once upon a time not so long ago, when college football's regular season ended, the NFL would air a few late-season games on Saturday night. That's coming back—the contract actually stipulates 14 Thursday games and two Saturday games. December Saturdays will be a bit less dreary. (Update: The NFL confirms that the Saturday games will be a doubleheader in Week 16.)
In conclusion, the NFL is an unstoppable monster. The league just got hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to let someone else produce 16 games, while the NFL Network gets to air them all anyway.