The bidding war for the television rights to "Thursday Night Football" has ended, with CBS emerging victorious. The company announced today a new deal with the NFL Network that would split the coveted slate of National Football League games between the two networks for the 2014 season.
Beating out the likes of Fox, ESPN, NBC and Turner Broadcasting, CBS will air eight of the 16 games early in the season, which will be simulcast on NFL Network. The remaining eight games -- six on Thursdays and two late in the season on Saturdays -- will air on the league's network but will be produced by CBS's crew.
Last month, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that the league was shopping such a deal, seeking about $800 million in return. The final one-year deal is reportedly for less than $300 million and includes a one-year option at the NFL's discretion. Experts say the final contract was much less than anticipated because the simulcast of the CBS games on NFL Network.
On camera, little will change for the CBS broadcasts, with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms calling the games with the addition of NFL Network analysts during the pregame, halftime and postgame shows.
The deal is a win for both sides, with the NFL getting its Thursday show before the remaining American households that don't have cable, and CBS capitalizing on the millions of advertising dollars to be made in prime-time football. This is also the latest move in the NFL's push to, in its own words, "eventize" the game; as Grantland's Bryan Curtis writes, "To eventize is to make sports into a television show. This has been the NFL Network's creed since day one."
With the NFL Network simulcast and the increased presence of its hosts and analysts on the CBS broadcast, the deal certainly furthers the event that is "Thursday Night Football" -- good news for the league and the networks but less than desirable for the players, who have long lamented the shorter recovery time before Thursday night games. When the format debuted in 2006, there were only eight games on the schedule; this season there were 14. In December, Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton bluntly characterized the "terrible" Thursday Night Football phenomenon: "It's about the NFL, their logo, making money and what the fans want. You know, they don't really care about us," he said. It doesn't appear things would be better on Saturday: "I say Thursday, I'm probably around 75 percent, 80 percent," Knighton said. "By Saturday, I'm probably around 90, and Sunday morning I feel good."
The NFL and CBS, however, must be positively giddy at the idea of all those additional fans their broadcasts and ad space can now reach.
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Kavitha A Davidson at email@example.com