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Football fans would likely be a much happier group if there were games scheduled during all seven days of the week when the NFL season is in effect. But for now, we’re making do with having Thursday night as our main mid-week oasis. That oasis is going to look different by the time the season starts up again in the fall, though, as NFL head honcho Roger Goodell has announced Thursday Night Football will no longer be exclusive to CBS on the broadcast front, as the games will now be split with NBC.
NBC, which already airs the dependable ratings grabber Sunday Night Football, will get five Thursday Night Football games out of the new deal, with CBS seeing its former 8-game schedule getting reduced to five as well. That means we’ll get a total of ten broadcast airings, up two from previous years. On the flipside, NFL Network will still be the place to find the other seven games of the 2016-2017 season, and the cable channel will also be simulcasting the games that air on CBS and NBC, so you can find every game there, regardless of how you feel about tuning into your local affiliates.
Not long ago, the rumors started flying about NFL exects wanting to make changes to the Thursday Night Football schedule, but at the time, it was up in the air just how the games would be split between CBS and NBC, and the possibility existed that the NFL might try to dictate on the fly which network got which games as the weeks went by. This would have been something of a nightmare scenario for programming chiefs to try and figure out how to keep audiences engaged with the night’s regular scripted programming, such as CBS’ ratings winner The Big Bang Theory and NBC’s The Blacklist. Fortunately, those details have been worked out in favor of networks and audiences, and CBS will be handling the first half of the Thursday Night Football schedule, and NBC will take over for the second half. This still means a weeks-long hiatus for the regular programming, but at least it’s all set in stone now.
Never content to stop while the getting is good, the NFL is also in talks with different digital companies to provide OTT streaming capabilities for Thursday Night Football games, and a decision is set to be made on that in the near future. This would be a good time for CBS to break out its own NFL streaming platform, whether it’s through the main website or through the subscription service CBS All Access.
Sadly, we’ll be waiting quite a few months to see how this change-up in format helps or hurts the NFL. (Though I’d be willing to bet all of my worldly possessions that it doesn’t hurt.) Until then, don’t forget about Super Bowl 50 on CBS on Sunday, February 6.