The National Football League split its Thursday night package offered to broadcast networks between CBS and NBC, retaining eight games exclusively for its own NFL Network cable channel.
The deal is for the 2016 and 2017 seasons and is for an estimated $450 million, above the reported $350 million CBS paid for eight Thursday night games in 2015.
NFL Network will continue to simulcast all games in the package and will exclusively televise an eight-game schedule of regular season games comprised of Thursday Night Football, late-season games on Saturday and additional games to be determined. (Update: the new schedule has been released.)
The NFL said that it is in active discussions with prospective digital partners for OTT streaming rights to the Thursday Night package and expects to announce a deal in the "near future." (Update: Twitter obtained global streaming rights to the 10 Thursday-night games being shown on CBS and NBC and simulcast on NFL Network.)
“We are continuing to make Thursday Night Football bigger and better," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in anstatement. "CBS has played an integral role over the last two seasons in helping build Thursdays as a night for NFL football, and we’re excited to have them on board again. At the same time, we’re thrilled to add NBC to the Thursday Night Football mix, a trusted partner with a proven track record of success broadcasting NFL football in primetime, and look forward to expanding with a digital partner for what will be a unique tri-cast on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms.”
Thursday Night Football started in 2006 with an eight game schedule exclusively on NFL Network. By 2012, it had grown to a 13-game schedule exclusively on NFL Network, where it remained through the 2013 season. For both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, CBS partnered with NFL Network to present an expanded 16-game Thursday Night Football schedule.
“The CBS Corporation and the CBS Television Network are extremely pleased to continue our successful partnership with the NFL on Thursday nights,” CBS CEO Les Moonves said in a statement. “Thursday Night Football has provided extremely valuable programming and a powerful promotional platform to help launch CBS’s primetime schedule, contributing to our standing as the perennial #1 and most-watched network. Broadcasting the first half of the Thursday Night Football schedule is a terrific way to jump start the 2016-2017 television season. We look forward to another great year of the NFL on CBS on both Thursdays and Sundays."
For the 16 games of the 2015 schedule, Thursday Night Football on CBS and NFL Network (and over-the-air stations) averaged a 7.9 HH rating and 13.0M viewers, up +59% and +61% respectively from 2013 when the games were solely on NFL Network. The 2015 season was the most-watched and highest-rated season ever.
“The NFL has the most powerful programming on television, and we are delighted to expand our primetime schedule to 24 regular season games,” said NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke in a statement. "Thursday Night Football is an important addition to NBC’s #1-ranked primetime lineup, and the perfect complement to our award-winning ‘Sunday Night Football’ broadcast. The NFL is a terrific partner, and we could not be more pleased about expanding our relationship.”