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What The New 'Thursday Night Football' Deal Means For CBS, NBC And The NFL

What The New 'Thursday Night Football' Deal Means For CBS, NBC And The NFL

The NFL will continue to have a big presence on Thursday nights this fall, but now with two partners instead of one. In a deal announced Monday, the NFL has agreed to an arrangement that expands its Thursday night package from eight games to 10 games, but splits it over both CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS) and Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA)'s NBC, giving each five match-ups.

From One To Two

CBS launched the franchise two years ago and was fighting hard to retain sole position, but the NFL decided to shake things up. Under the new two-year pact, CBS and NBC will each pay $225 million for the slate, bringing the total value to $450 million.

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Reportedly, CBS had previously paid $300 million for the rights to the package, which means it will now have $75 million free to re-allocate.

Yet in turn, the NFL will now see an influx of $125 million and potentially even more than that, as it the company is supposedly looking to sell the streaming rights to the those games as well.

Investors, Pay Attention

Investors need to understand that while CBS and NBC are the "winners" here, the NFL essentially imposed its will in a way that should cause many to take notice. While neither CBS nor NBC wanted to split the slate, neither actually had a choice; if one dropped out, a long line of suitors would have stepped up.

As it stands, while this will greatly impact the way the major networks handle its upfront sales and fall scheduling, it could have been a lot worse.

Originally, the NFL was pushing for CBS and NBC to alternate the games every week, which would have wreaked even more havoc on the media industry. Instead, under the finalized deal, CBS gets the first five games and NBC gets the back five…both simulcasting its games with the NFL Network.

For CBS, this isn't a massive concession, as the network has gotten very good at rolling out its new fall season in waves to accommodate the games. Programmers will have to wait less time to launch their full schedule, which probably makes their lives a little easier.

Conversely, for NBC, its team is now going to have a five-week gap to schedule. Whatever NBC decides to air on Thursdays it is going to have to move when the NFL package begins, which will greatly reduce what it can slot on the night. Starting a slate later is much easier than suspending it for an extended period, though it is possible NBC can use limited run programming to fill the night.

Investors should be keenly aware that audiences hate the stop/start pattern that runs rampant among broadcast networks, as it greatly helped the cord-cutting movement gain traction. The upside for NBC, though, is that its games will likely come during the all-important November sweeps period where high ratings are extra important.

NFL Is The 'Real' Winner

Regardless, the NFL came away from this with almost all of its demands met, which in turn sets a dangerous precedent for future negotiations. This may be one deal where the short-term benefits lead to long-term ramifications.

Image Credit: Public Domain


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