For $250 million, CBS ups the ante with Thursday Night Football

CBS will televise eight early-season games, starting in Week 2, that will be simulcast on NFL Network.
Feb 8, 2014

 

Here’s everything you need to know about the new “Thursday Night Football” partnership between the NFL and CBS:

The deal announced Tuesday is for the 2014 season with a league option for a second year. CBS will televise eight early-season games, starting in Week 2, that will be simulcast on NFL Network. NFLN will carry eight late-season games through Week 16. The package includes a Week 16 Saturday doubleheader.

All 16 games will feature CBS production, and the lead announcers will be Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Nantz and Simms will work a lighter Sunday schedule, probably limited to the weeks when CBS has a doubleheader. The pregame, halftime and postgame shows will feature a mix of CBS and NFLN talent, akin to the arrangement between CBS and Turner for the NCAA Tournament.

The NFL’s goal in selling the package to a broadcast network is to expand the reach and elevate the profile of “TNF.” That would enable the league to maximize the package’s value when it negotiates a long-term pact.

CBS hopes to have the inside track when that time comes. “I would hope so,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said by phone Thursday. “Our goal is to do such a good job and build the product into such a good franchise that we can continue in the future.”

While the NFL wanted “TNF” on a broadcast network for at least next season, its future home could be a cable network. CBS Sports Network is among the candidates. “Anything is possible,” McManus said. “We’re not at that stage in our development yet. In the future, (we) very well might be.”

The setup next season, with the early-season games on CBS, should do wonders for NFLN. The more people who get hooked on the product, the more who are likely to keep watching once the CBS portion of the package ends.

Given that it paid a reported $250 million for one year’s worth of “TNF,” CBS likely will get more attractive matchups, at least to the extent to which that is controllable. “They want this to succeed. We want this to succeed,” McManus said. “So I imagine the schedule will be excellent.”

With 16 games on the slate — plus the opener and the Thanksgiving tripleheader — some teams will make multiple Thursday appearances. However, no team will have more than one short week of preparation — i.e., playing four days after kicking off on a Sunday.

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THE GAMES BEGIN

NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics began Thursday night. Navigating all the different viewing options can be daunting.

My advice is to do what makes you feel most comfortable.

If you’re technologically savvy, have free time during the day or keep vampire hours, try the streaming options on NBCOlympics.com and/or the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

If you’re more interested in the spectacle than the results, watch NBC’s traditional, delayed prime time coverage.

If you’re like me and interested in only one sport — hockey! — figure out the best way to streamline your viewing experience. (Searching “Olympic hockey TV schedule” on Google is most helpful.)

Cable and satellite providers are doing their part as well. Time Warner Cable is grouping the five NBC networks together during the Games (channels 1465-1469). DirecTV has a simple Winter Games menu accessible through its SportsMix channel.

What I’ll be most interested to see is the extent to which NBC covers the issues in Sochi, Russia, from the inadequate accommodations many journalists have been writing and tweeting about to security concerns to Russia’s anti-gay law.

NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said last month the network “will cover any social or political issues as they are relevant to the Games from a sports perspective.” Bob Costas followed through on that promise during his opening remarks Thursday.

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REMOTE PATROL

SportsNet LA will broadcast every Dodgers spring training game except for two featuring split squads. Vin Scully will call the first game Feb. 26. Twenty-two games will air live. “Access SportsNet: Dodgers,” an hourlong studio show, will air daily at 7 p.m. during spring training. …

Not surprisingly, Lakers ratings on Time Warner Cable SportsNet are down about 39 percent from last season. That does not take into account live-stream viewership. …

Despite the game being a complete wipeout, Super Bowl XLVIII on Fox was the most-watched program in U.S. history with an average audience of 112.2 million. The household rating of 46.7 was the seventh highest of all time. …

Fox Sports’ live stream of the Super Bowl drew an average of 528,000 viewers per minute, making it the most-watched live stream of a sporting event in the U.S. …

Several events airing on Fox Sports 1 during Super Bowl week enjoyed sizable viewership bumps, including the post-Super Bowl version of “Fox Sports Live,” which more than quadrupled its average Sunday night audience. ESPN drew about 10 times as many viewers, but for FS1, it’s a start. …

“Fox Sports Live” co-anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole will report nightly from Sochi. I’m sure their irreverent style will go over well in Russia. …

NFL Network’s daily viewership last week was up 20 percent over 2013, making it the most-watched Super Bowl week in network history. …

Antonio Pierce will continue to work as an NFL analyst for ESPN despite his appointment Thursday as the new coach at Long Beach Poly. Mark Brunell has a similar arrangement. …

Best wishes to ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling, who announced this week he has been diagnosed with cancer. The announcement did not specify the type of cancer with which Schilling, 47, has been afflicted. …

RIP, Ralph Kiner, who was part of the WWOR New York Mets broadcasts when cable was in its infancy in the late 1970s. It was a different time, and a different TV universe. …

ESPN will broadcast a record 200 regular-season and conference-championship college baseball games across various networks this season. Cal State Fullerton and UCLA are scheduled for a pair of appearances apiece on

ESPNU. …

The Duke-Syracuse game Saturday drew the third-largest audience (4,745,000 on average) for a regular-season men’s college basketball game in ESPN history.

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MEDIA MUSINGS

1. Media coverage of the Super Bowl reached a nadir when Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch drew an increasingly large crowd of reporters … because he wasn’t talking. Lynch had no interest in conducting interviews — and had little of interest to say — and that in and of itself became a story during a week bereft of controversy. I imagine many of you took Lynch’s side in this matter, but I’ll explain next where he went wrong.

2. First, by shirking his media responsibilities, Lynch attracted more attention than he would have otherwise. Had he simply been boring during the obligatory 45- to 60-minute availability, the throng around him would have shrunk. Second, by playing by his own set of rules, Lynch placed himself above his teammates, who dutifully sat there answering one question after another for as long as they were supposed to.

3. The final point is Lynch, by making himself available for about 20 minutes out of a possible 150, set a bad precedent. By showing up for 6-8 minutes per day, Lynch avoided being fined and had a previous $50,000 penalty rescinded. Without a legitimate deterrent, what’s to stop someone else from doing the same in the future? There’s value in getting your story out, as Derrick Coleman and others proved. It’s also, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why not enjoy it?

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