SBD/July 17, 2014/Media

CBS Touting Thursday Night NFL Package To Reach Ratings In Line With "SNF"

McManus would have liked to have locked in the Thursday night deal for more than a year
Thanks to the addition of the "Thursday Night Football" package, CBS is "heading into the fall ratings battle with the biggest new weapon" since NBC lured "SNF" from ESPN in '06, according to Marisa Guthrie of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. CBS kicks off its "TNF" franchise "in a marquee matchup Sept. 11" between the Steelers and Ravens. If ratings "even approach SNF," CBS could "vault far ahead of competitors and gain a valuable promotional opportunity for the network's new fall shows." Sources said that for CBS to make back its $275M for Thursday games, the net is "promising ad buyers a 12 household rating, on par with SNF." One buyer said that this has been "something of a 'tough sell' for CBS." Still, most analysts believe that CBS will "command more for ads than ESPN gets for MNF." But with the Thursday deal, many "are asking whether the NFL finally will reach its tipping point and tumble into overexposure." NFL Media COO Brian Rolapp said, "What we haven't seen yet is dilution (of the brand). If we've hit the saturation period, we certainly haven't seen it. But it's something we keep an eye on." Guthrie notes underlying the NFL's expansion to a third night "is the ongoing issue of player health and safety." Redskins QB Robert Griffin III said, "It's something that the NFL is going to have to address to keep players safe while also trying to maximize revenue." Guthrie notes if "TNF" is a success on CBS, the NFL, which "holds the exclusive right of renewal in the one-year deal, could shop the package in an open bid next season for an increase." CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus admits that he "would have liked to have locked in the deal for more than a year" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 7/25 issue).

TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH: NBC's Al Michaels said of whether the new "TNF" package might be too much, "Right now, it's not too much. You look at the numbers. You look at the ratings. You look at the television rights." NBC's Cris Collinsworth also felt that the NFL "has not yet reached the saturation point." He said, "You can't turn on the channel now that they're not talking about the National Football League." The CP's Bill Brioux noted with "interest in free agency and draft coverage," both Michaels and Collinsworth "felt the NFL was becoming a 12-month obsession for many football fans" (CP, 7/15).

CONNECT FOUR: CBS President & CEO Les Moonves said that the net will "almost certainly not be a bidder for either NBA or MLB rights because the economics don't work for them." However, he said that the four sports where they "are spending big for licensing fees" -- NFL, NCAA basketball, NCAA football and golf -- are "all profitable for his company." Moonves: "This year, we're beginning a new 10-year deal with the NFL where we're paying over $1 billion per season for sports rights, and we're still going to make a profit because the NFL is still the gold standard for live TV. There's nothing that competes with it. This year, we luckily added Thursday Night Football to that" (, 7/15). McManus also said the NFL "has been a profitable franchise" for CBS. The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Guthrie notes the increase for the current deal "was more than" 60% to $1B through '22. McManus said, "It's a big increase. Even though we are paying more money in rights, it still makes sense because many advertisers need the NFL. They just can't afford for almost six months every year not to advertise in the most successful and attractive programming on TV." Meanwhile, asked how CBS analysts will cover the controversy over the Redskins nickname this season, McManus said, "We haven't talked to them yet. Generally speaking, we do not tell our announcers what to say or not say. Up to this point, it has not been a big issue for us" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 7/25 issue).
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