Sunday, January 18, 2015

NFL Renews Thursday Night Football Deal With CBS, Begins New Programming Alliance

Thursday Night Football is back on CBS! The announcement was made late Sunday morning before the league's last four remaining teams faced off for a chance to play in the Super Bowl. 

The package of games was plagued by lopsided victories but that did not stop CBS from putting on a spectacular production each week and it didn't stop people from watching. CBS's primetime package performed better than ESPN's Monday Night Football and dominated ratings each week. CBS's promotion even help NFL Network's ratings improve during their slate of games in the second half of the season.

Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson will continue to call the action and all of CBS's top production personnel will continue in the same places they were in last year. CBS will pay $300 million which is a little more than the $275 million they paid before but I'm sure they won't mind based on the Nielsen ratings which these games generated for the network in the past.

The one big loss for CBS is that their new OTT app, CBS All Access, will not be able to stream the primetime action according to The LA Times:
The new deal does not include digital broadcast rights to the games, meaning that CBS' new streaming service still will lack live NFL prime-time action.
I wouldn't be surprised if we saw changes in the studio crew for next season's games. James Brown was definitely a great force to steer the night but Bill Cowher and Deion Sanders didn't seem to have much chemistry on set, even though it was clear that they did respect one another. I predict that we'll see more Tony Gonzales, the former tight end whom CBS is grooming to be a mainstay at the network.

The most interesting part of the new deal is the following:
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.
In other words, both sides are still trying to work out what this means. Here are some ideas/predictions for what I think these "programming initiatives" will entail.
  • Joint promotion and possible simulcasts between CBS Sports Network and NFL Network during Super Bowl Week (since Super Bowl 50 will air on CBS)
  • More NFL programming on CBS Sports Network which will include game highlights and NFL Films footage
  • "The Rich Eisen Show" simulcasts on CBSSN?
  • Joint web shows which air on CBS Sports' website and the NFL Now app and feature personalities from both networks
  • Weekly chats on Now and with Nantz and Simms answering questions previewing TNF from the NFL's Facebook page?
  • NFL's podcast network will be distributed via CBS' new podcast platform,
  • NFL Network personalities either get their own shows or make more appearances on CBS Sports Radio and local CBS Radio sports talk stations
  • CBS Sports produces filler programming such as "We Need To Talk: NFL Edition," "TOPS" or "NFL Monday QB" and documentaries for NFL Network
  • "NFL GameDay Morning" gets a chance on CBS
  • "Inside the NFL" might move it's production to LA or use a cast from NFLN which already has experience together since last season's cast didn't mesh well together
The bottom line to this last paragraph, in my opinion, is that the NFL wants more content for it's mobile app and TV network that will make it distinctive from the chatter fans hear on ESPN. CBS has been producing that kind of programming on sports network but nobody has it on their cable lineup. By airing that content on NFLN and NFL Now/, CBS's talk shows get more exposure and the NFL has more video to super serve it's fans with.

My big, bold prediction which is extremely unlikely to happen but possible? CBS will experiment a "ESPN CFB Playoff Megacast-type" of option for one of it's TNF games, regular season Sunday games or playoff games with the NFL Network. This could possibly mean a SpiderCam or GoPro simulcast on NFLN with the same commercials but from a different angle, a Film-Room type of simulcast on NFLN or NFLN and CBSSN get the radio calls to each respective team playing. 

It's also possible but extremely unlikely that CBS and NFLN collaborate to simulcast the Super Bowl. NFLN may get a Spanish-language simulcast with the same production from CBS or one of the options from above could be implemented as well. Who knows?

UPDATE from David Barron of The Houston Chronicle:
CBS and the NFL also will work to develop programming on CBS, NFL Network or CBS Sports Network, McManus said. Details of that agreement have yet to be determined, but NFL Films has worked in the past with ESPN to sponsor such projects as “Lost Treasures of NFL Films” and “NFL’s Greatest Games.”

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