The National Football League is teaming with CBS to provide fans with a new and improved Thursday Night Football package for the 2014 NFL season.
According to a press release via NFL Communications on Wednesday, Feb. 5, the network will air eight Thursday night games in the early part of the season (per SportsBusiness Journal's Eric Fisher). Those games will air simultaneously on NFL Network, which will broadcast the final eight late-season Thursday Night Football games.
The 16 Thursday Night Football matchups will consist of 14 Thursday games and two Saturday games, both of which are scheduled for the second half of the season as NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport points out via Twitter:
CBS will produce all 16 broadcasts and will feature Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in the commentary booth. According to the release, NFL Network analysts will be seen during pregame, halftime and postgame coverage of each game.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made the league's goal very clear, per the release: "NFL Network built Thursday into a night for NFL fans. Our goal is to bring these games to more fans on broadcast television with unprecedented promotion and visibility for Thursday Night Football on CBS."
President and CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves was also excited to confirm the partnership:
We are very pleased to build on our outstanding partnership with the NFL by expanding our coverage to Thursday nights. 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.
Considering the NFL has scheduled Thursday night games on a regular basis in past seasons, this new partnership shouldn't have much of an impact in terms of the season schedule. However, the fact that eight games will air on CBS means that a wider audience will be tuning in on Thursday nights during the first half of the season.
Mark Maske of The Washington Post had more on the length of the deal:
Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith speculated on a possible effect of this change:
The two late-season Saturday broadcasts will also shake things up for NFL fans. With the playoff race heating up in December, the two weekend showcases could potentially carry massive implications.
And with a presumably healthy partnership having just been taken to a new level, it's very possible the entire Thursday Night Football slate could soon be broadcast on network television.
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