here, here, here, here, and here among others), but now it is official as the NFL announced today that they would be partnering with CBS for this package in 2014. Let's break down what this deal means.
CBS will air eight early season games on the network, marking the first time that weekday games will be on OTA television since Monday Night Football was last on ABC in 2005. These games will be simulcast on NFL Network. NFL Network will exclusively air eight late-season games, including the much-anticipated return of Saturday games with a doubleheader in Week 16.
In an interesting twist, all the games will be produced by CBS and all the Thursday games (including one of the Saturday games) will be called by the lead NFL on CBS broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Nantz and Simms will still be the lead crew on CBS on Sundays, but they may have weeks where they are calling a Thursday game but not a Sunday game. One would presume that they would not be doing a game on the Sunday in Week 16.
Also, what is intriguing is the pregame, halftime and postgame shows will feature both CBS and NFL Network talent, which could make for an interesting mix of personalities.
It appears that with all the reports preceding the deal, as well as the deal itself, that the NFL did not want to continue in-house production of games but they still wanted to have the games on NFL Network in order to continue justifying the high subscriber fees from cable and satellite providers. This way, there continue to be games, including the exclusive telecasts, but instead are being produced by CBS.
Also, the NFL gets a gauge of the value of these Thursday games, even for an eight game slate like the one CBS is getting in 2014. As the slate has been in-house on the league's network, the value of this package was uncertain. But now they have the chance to see the value for this package long-term, as this is only a one year deal.
For CBS, even with their self-titled status as "America's Most Watched Network," this is a big win. As everybody knows, primetime ratings on network television have been in a state of decline as the options on cable grow more and more, but football ratings have never been higher. Even as the Thursday games have never been that popular with the public, as well as the fact that the quality of contests are not great either, they still draw extremely well. And for CBS, this covers them on Thursdays, the biggest night for advertisers on television, for two months while furthering their primetime options on other nights of the week.
We shall find out what games will air on this package in a couple of months with the release of the NFL schedule, but this seems to be a win-win for all parties involved.