Evidently pleased by the increased audiences the hybrid presentation yielded during its rookie season, the National Football League will continue its partnership with CBS to produce and televise Thursday Night Football for the 2015 season.
CBS will broadcast the first eight Thursday Night Football games, which also will be simulcast on NFL Network. The pro football league's in-house network will then 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.
During the 2014 season, CBS/NFL Network combined to record ratings and audience gains of 52%, with a 7.6 household mark and 12.3 million viewers on average. That was up from a 5.0 and 8.1 million watchers over 13 games during the 2013 season, when the cable network aired the contests alone, supplemented by coverage from the over-the-air stations in the participating clubs' DMAs.
The amelioration was even more impressive considering many of the telecasts, particularly when CBS and NFL Network were teaming on the first half of the seaosn, were blowouts. Still, the CBS/NFL Networks simulcasts carried most of the Nielsen wieght, averaging 16.5 million watchers for the first seven contests. The telecasts reflected a gross audience from the two networks, which was how the games were sold to the advertising marketplace.
As was the case during the 2014 campaign, the game plan calls CBS to produce the full slate of 16 regular-season games with its lead broadcasters -- Jim Nantz and Phil Simms 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.
Deal terms were not disclosed. CBS, which was said to have paid $275 million for the inaugural run of games, will pay over $300 million for the 2015 package, according to reports.
“We are pleased to extend our partnership with CBS for Thursday Night Football,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “The promotion and production by CBS and NFL Network last season made Thursday night a night for NFL football. We look forward to working again next season with CBS.”
“The benefits of Thursday Night Football are evident across our corporation, including a strengthened primetime lineup that has built on its number one position,” said CBS CEO Les Moonves. “The NFL continues to be the best premium content in the business, and we look forward to another year of our expanded partnership in 2015-2016, a season that will culminate with Super Bowl on CBS.”
Noted CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus: “I could not be more proud of the job the CBS Sports team did in conjunction with our partners at the NFL in producing, branding and positioning Thursday Night Football as a television destination for viewers,” said McManus. “The awareness and viewership for Thursday Night Football grew dramatically in 2014, and we look forward to continuing this trend.”
The programming relationship between the NFL and CBS will expand to include, among other elements, the development of new programming initiatives across the various CBS and NFL platforms.
This past fall, the TNF schedule routinely gave CBS Thursday night victories in overall audience and a wide swath of demos. It also enabled the broadcast network leader to return the medium's top comedy, The Big Bang Theory, to its Monday night roots, before returning it to Thursdays in late October.
The announcement came on the day CBS will televise the American Football Conference matchup of Indianapolis-New England. The telecast from Foxboro, Mass. no doubt will tackle one of the largest audiences of 2015.