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CBS' Football Deal Is a 'Big Bang' Blessing in Disguise

With Thursday Night Football coming to the broadcast network, TV's biggest hit is still likely to stay put -- and potentially in a position to help launch new shows.

NFL The Big Bang Theory Split - H 2014
AP Photo/Paul Sancya; Sonja Flemming/CBS
Jocks and Nerds

Now that CBS has won the bid for NFL's Thursday Night Football franchise, the network is suffering from an embarrassment of riches on one of TV's most advertiser-friendly nights.

CBS' eight games for the 2014 football season, six of which will air during the traditional fall TV season, means that The Big Bang Theory will -- at least for a little while -- be without it's 8 p.m. home. But as the Big Four continue to be more playful with launch dates, and broadcast turns to the year-round schedules more familiar on cable, six weeks just isn't a big deal -- though it may seem like it when TV's biggest series enters the conversation.

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The sitcom isn't just CBS' crown jewel, it's the most consistently high-rated comedy since Friends signed off in 2004. The current season of The Big Bang Theory tops even NBC's Sunday Night Football with an average 23.5 million viewers once DVR views are factored in.

So while it is far too early to speculate about how exactly the fall schedule play out -- expect that to be the question for CBS at its May upfront -- it doesn't seem likely at all that The Big Bang Theory will depart the night, as many a TV critic and fan theorized on Twitter. CBS' Thursday lineup, which currently includes freshmen The Millers and The Crazy Ones, an aging Two and a Half Men and sophomore drama Elementary, could easily just launch intact in November once the games head back to the NFL Network. A later start date comes with the huge promotional push from the football games, something all of the network's new and returning series will benefit from, and fewer repeats come midseason.

CBS crammed all of its fall premieres, save Survivor, into the same week for the 2013-14 season. A promotional lift from the Emmys, which CBS had the rights to in 2013, played a role in that decision -- but most broadcast networks have been experimenting more in tiered fall launches.

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The thrall of The Big Bang Theory, currently averaging a 7.7 rating among adults 18-49, also gives CBS the option of rolling out a few new episodes in other time slots ahead of a Thursday return. That would offer TV's most enviable lead-in to a new comedy -- something CBS could certainly use with No. 2 sitcom How I Met Your Mother ending its run in March.

The Big Bang Theory approaches the end of its seventh season in a similar position to the one it was in three years ago when the network handed out a three-season renewal. Recently nabbing a series high audience in live-plus-same-day viewership, current negotiations between CBS and producers Warner Bros. TV and with the cast come when the show is still on top of its game. And given what the show has done for CBS' Thursday, a night it tends to win by all measures, a few weeks of football won't likely mess with that recipe.