Friday, August 15, 2014

Inside The NFL Re-Airs On NFL Network, CBS = Serious About Thursday Night Football

CBS and NFL Network have expanded their relationship beyond teaming up to broadcast and produce "Thursday Night Football". CBS will now let NFL Network re-air their premium football series, Inside The NFL, on Wednesdays at 9pm after it is aired Tuesdays at 9pm on Showtime.

There is no word on whether this was an extra perk offered during CBS' acquisition of Thursday Night Football. The show will now be hosted by Greg Gumbel with Boomer Esiason, Ed Reed, Phil Simms and Brandon Marshall as analysts. 

Marshall will fly into New York City weekly to analyze the games from the previous week and then return to Chicago where he plays wide receiver for the Bears. Ed Reed hasn't announced his retirement but he was recognized as a "former" safety in the press release announcing his hiring.

Boomer Esiason adds yet ANOTHER job to his plate while Phil Simms is the only mainstay from last season. Inside the NFL was moved to Tuesday nights to accommodate Simms who will be calling games on Thursday nights this season. The change in schedule makes it easier for him to do both the show and Thursday games. It is unlikely he will return to CBS Sports Network's "Monday Night Quarterback" as a regular.

I'm happy Greg Gumbel got this job especially since he has recently been demoted to the #3 team on "NFL on CBS", demoted to the #2 host on CBS/Turner's "March Madness" coverage and he was kicked off as the host of "The NFL Today" after CBS hired James Brown.

Courtesy: New York Times

Speaking of Brown, he along with Cris Collinsworth voluntarily left their positions on the show. Brown will be hosting "TNF" as well as CBS's Sunday afternoon games while Collinsworth will have more time to prepare for "SNF" games and cultivate his site, I'm also sure NBC wasn't comfortable with their star on a CBS program during the year they host the Super Bowl.

CBS has done an outstanding job promoting "Thursday Night Football". I've seen contests intertwined with "TNF" on "Big Brother," promotion during "ET," "CBS This Morning" and "The Talk," commercials about the games run during big CBS Sports events like the PGA Championship, radio ads, news anchors from local affiliates wearing "TNF" gear and so much more. Jim Nantz even appeared on the NFL Network's schedule release special. You can tell CBS values this new package of games.

Letting NFL Network re-air Inside The NFL assures NFL Media that CBS is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Thursday night games on CBS for many years to come beyond this contract's expiration date even if it erodes "Inside The NFL" ratings on Showtime. (SIDENOTE: It's unknown whether Showtime will continue to re-air "Inside The NFL" throughout the week on other Showtime networks like it has in the past)

At the end of the day though, it's a good strategy for CBS because it helps them secure their financial future in a television world which has become very cloudy because of emerging technologies. They've already gotten into a tiff with their former Indianapolis affiliate who wasn't willing to pay extra retransmission fees. In that specific situation, CBS used the leverage they have from "TNF" to change affiliates.

What I'm Pondering

I wonder if CBS and the NFL will get so cozy in a couple of years that CBS will buy a stake in the network and pair it up with their local stations, Showtime and their other cable networks during retransmission negotiations with cable operators.

I also wonder if that kind of relationship would force CBS to produce more programming outside of "TNF" for NFLN or if CBS would produce joint productions involving NFL stars and athletes from other properties which it owns and promotes like the PGA Tour, NCAA basketball and SEC football. (LONG SHOT EXAMPLE: CBS recently agreed to air programs on CBSSN from the PGA Tour's entertainment division, could CBS pull some strings with the league to get some well known NFL stars to appear on those programs alongside golfers?)

But most importantly, would CBS lose journalistic credibility if it got more cozy with the league than the other networks. (SIDENOTE: This is not the first time CBS and the NFL's media properties have partnered up. CBS used to operate

My other question in all this is what does CBSSN get out of all this? Anything? Do they get to re-air "TNF" games or "Inside The NFL"? Are they going to pick up rights to show extended highlights?

While CBS is losing out on opportunities to grow their cable properties by making Showtime's hit series available to non Showtime subscribers and leaving CBSSN out of the pie again, they still come out as big winners financially-speaking and they have the early lead to renew Thursday night NFL rights for the 2015-2016 season.

UPDATE: Check out this NYT article discussing this same topic. New details on CBS/NFL promotion:
Boomer Esiason, an analyst on “NFL on CBS,” is to appear in an episode of “Blue Bloods,” he said, and another “NFL on CBS” analyst, Phil Simms, will get a guest spot on “Elementary.”
And rather than tap an actor from a CBS entertainment program to host the 2014-15 edition of the network’s annual fall preview show, Mr. Schweitzer said, the host will be Jim Nantz, who will handle the play-by-play duties during “Thursday Night Football”; the preview show is to be broadcast at 8:30 p.m. (Eastern time) on Sept. 1.


RaeE said...

I will really miss James Brown and Chris C on INSIDE. Both so brilliant and insightful.

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