CBS to air eight Thursday night games

CBS to air eight Thursday night games
February 5, 2014, 8:45 pm

A lot of fans and players may not like it, but it's pretty clear Thursday night football is here to stay.

CBS and the NFL announced on Wednesday that CBS has won the bid to broadcast eight Thursday night games in the first half in the 2014 season, with the games simulcast on the NFL Network. The NFL Network will exclusively air eight other games in the latter half of the season.

The arrangement is only for the 2014 season, but the NFL holds the option to extend it to 2015. CBS beat out ABC, Fox and NBC for the rights, according to Sports Business Daily, though terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Thursday night games have struggled to gain traction thus far, with some less-than-compelling matchups and relatively weak ratings on cable's NFL Network. Players have also been widely critical of the games, saying the quick turnaround from Sunday to Thursday takes its toll physically.

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 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has long been a proponent of claiming a piece of the valuable Thursday night TV viewership. The NFL Network, though, has not produced the huge numbers of network TV. With matchups this past season that included Bills-Browns, Panthers-Bucs and Texans-Jaguars, the Thursday night games averaged 8 million viewers, or well less than half of what the typical Sunday Night Football game drew on NBC.

“NFL Network built Thursday into a night for NFL fans,” Goodell said in a statement. “Our goal is to bring these games to more fans on broadcast television with unprecedented promotion and visibility for Thursday Night Football on CBS.”

CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves said in a statement, “CBS is a premium content company and the NFL represents the best premium content there is."

There will also be some Saturday NFL football next season, with a Week 16 Saturday doubleheader. The NFL has played late-season Saturday games in past years, though there were none in 2013.