Thursday Night Football is receiving a mini-makeover beginning next season. On Monday, the NFL announced that Thursday Night Footballwill air on both CBS and NBC as agreed upon per a two-year deal. Additionally, the NFL Network will continue to simulcast each Thursday Night Football game, as well as an eight-game exclusive package that will include games on Saturday nights and games still to be determined. The first half of the schedule will air on CBS and the NFL Network, with the second half of the slate scheduled for NBC and the NFL Network.
Thursday Night Football's broadcasts will continue to include the networks' top announcing and production teams. Presumably, that means Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will resume calling the action for CBS, while Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will handle those duties for NBC. Nantz and Simms have the honor of calling Super Bowl 50 this Sunday from Santa Clara, while Michaels and Collinsworth manned the booth in last year's thriller between the Seahawks and Patriots.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement regarding the new partnership, hinting that there would be more news to follow in the near future.
"We are continuing to make Thursday Night Football bigger and better. 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."
CBS President and CEO Les Moonves added that retaining Thursday Night Football was an important key to maintaining the network's success. Last summer, Fortune reported that CBS will be demanding $5 million per 30-second commercial at this year's Super Bowl.
Moonves had this to say regarding the Thursday Night Football expansion.
"The CBS Corporation and the CBS Television Network are extremely pleased to continue our successful partnership with the NFL on Thursday nights. 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 Number One and most-watched network. Broadcasting the first half of the Thursday Night Football schedule is a terrific way to jump start the 2016-17 television season. We look forward to another great year of the NFL on CBS on both Thursdays and Sundays."
Clearly, the NFL is king. Even on Thursday Night Football where the product has clearly been inferior to the games on Sunday.
NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke weighed in on his network's inclusion in the package, adding games to their stellar Sunday Night Football broadcasts.
"The NFL has the most powerful programming on television, and we are delighted to expand our primetime schedule to 24 regular season games. 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."
Thursday Night Football garnered complaints about poor play and poor uniform decisions, but it didn't stop people from watching. 2015 was the most-watched and highest-rated Thursday Night Football season ever since its inception in 2006. On average, 13 million viewers tuned in to watch on Thursday nights. The 2016 NFL schedule is expected to be released in April, which is when we'll get a glimpse of the Thursday night match-ups. Viewers should expect another dose of divisional games on Thursday Night Football as a means to cut down travel and increase the quality of play.
[Photo by Gene Puskar/AP]