CBS, NFL Ink New Deal for Thursday Night Football

Leslie Moonves - H 2014
AP Images

Leslie Moonves - H 2014

The eight-game deal is for the 2015 season, with an additional year at the NFL's option.

CBS' Thursday night reign is set to continue this fall. 

The company has inked a new deal to have another batch of eight Thursday Night Football games be simulcast on CBS and the NFL Network in 2015. The NFL pact, widely speculated after the ratings success of the prior year's deal, is for the 2015 season, with an additional year at the NFL's option.

“We are pleased to extend our partnership with CBS for Thursday Night Football. The promotion and production by CBS and NFL Network last season made Thursday night a night for NFL football. We look forward to working again next season with CBS,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement announcing the news Sunday.

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Added CBS CEO Leslie Moonves: “The benefits of Thursday Night Football are evident across our Corporation, including a strengthened primetime lineup that has built on its number one position. The NFL continues to be the best premium content in the business, and we look forward to another year of our expanded partnership in 2015/16, a season that will culminate with Super Bowl 50 on CBS.”

Despite a swirl of controversy surrounding the NFL's dealings on the subject of domestic violence, CBS kicked off the 2014 season with an audience of 17.4 million viewers for game one -- and the network continued to draw a massive viewership on a weekly basis. In fact, all eight games catapulted CBS to No. 1 in total viewers for the night. 

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None of it came cheap, however. CBS famously shelled out $275 million for the rights to the package a year earlier, outbidding rivals including NBC and Fox. "It wasn't just about the money," CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told THR  at the time. "It was about the promotional and branding opportunities that are so much better at CBS than anywhere else.” No financial information for the latest deal was disclosed.

Just as favorable for CBS was what the Thursday lift did for the rest of its schedule. Delaying its popular Thursday comedy block, including Big Four crown jewel The Big Bang Theory, allowed the network to start the fall season with a more fluid line-up. Big Bang temporarily moved to the network's troubled Monday time slot, filling the vacancy left by How I Met Your Mother and helping launch freshman breakout Scorpion.

The addition of football also helped CBS' overall ratings trajectory. In a season where all but neutral ABC has been trending down in the key demographic of adults 18-49, CBS' year-to-year losses were lessened by Thursday Night Football. In total viewership, the network is also improved.

It's also a symbiotic relationship. The NFL Network saw its own Thursday Night Football ratings shoot up at the midpoint of the football season, after many viewers who grew accustomed to watching the games on CBS moved over to the cable channel once the partnership was over.