CBS to air Thursday Night Football next season

Call it The Big Blitz Theory: CBS has won the rights to the NFL’s newly offered Thursday Night Football package, bringing football games back to broadcast TV on Thursday nights next season.

Beating out bids from rivals, CBS will run eight games starting in September, presumably delaying the return of the network’s usual Thursday night entertaining programming. The games will be produced by CBS and have commentary from Jim Nantz and analyst Phil Simms. As part of the deal, the games will also run on the NFL Network.

The Thursday Night Football package gives CBS a powerful franchise on a night the network was already sometimes winning with its scripted comedy block and 10 p.m. drama. By acquiring the games, not only does CBS gain a strong ratings driver on the most lucrative night for advertising, it also prevents the package from falling into the hands of rivals that could have run the games against CBS’ shows such as The Big Bang Theory and The Crazy Ones.

“We are very pleased to build on our outstanding partnership with the NFL by expanding our coverage to Thursday nights,” said CBS Corp. president and CEO Les Moonves. “CBS is a premium content company and the NFL represents the best premium content there is. I look forward to all this new deal will do for us not only on Thursday nights, but across our entire schedule.”

One question is what will CBS do with its current Thursday programming. One option is to simply launch shows like The Big Bang Theory later and air fewer repeats — plenty of shows debut in October and early November. But CBS is more likely to want to use its biggest comedy power player to its fullest extent, which would mean shifting Big Bang Theory to earlier in the week at the start of the season and then moving it back to Thursdays. All this is pure speculation right now since CBS is pretty strict about not tipping its fall schedule plans until the upfronts each May.

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