NEW YORK (AP) — Thursday night games were such a success this season for CBS that the network extended its deal with the NFL through the 2015 season.
The agreement carries an additional year at the NFL’s option. It was announced Sunday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS; and Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports.
CBS will broadcast the first eight Thursday night games, which also will be simulcast on NFL Network. Then NFL Network will exclusively handle the final eight games.
The packages will include 14 games on Thursday nights and two late-season ones on Saturdays.
“I think there’s growth for better ratings,” McManus said. “The ratings were very strong considering the amount of blowouts we had.”
Five of the first seven matchups were decided by at least two touchdowns, including three by more than 30 points. Those seven games still averaged 16.5 million viewers between CBS and NFL Network, nearly double the 8.5 million for 2013 games that aired on NFL Network with simulcasts on local channels in each team’s home market.
All eight Thursday night games on CBS/NFL Network during Weeks 2-8 and Week 16 were the top-rated in prime time for that night across all networks. Overall, the total Thursday night package averaged 12.3 million viewers, up from 8.1 million for the entire 2013 schedule.
“All the research we did pointed to that we increased awareness pretty dramatically (that the NFL has games on Thursday night),” McManus added.
Part of the deal is an increased commitment to using “next gen” stats during both the Thursday and Sunday broadcasts. CBS will also develop new NFL programming that will air on CBS, CBS Sports Network and/or NFL Network.
Goodell said the games in last season’s package “made Thursday night a night for NFL football.” Moonves lauded the benefits of the Thursday night package, saying the NFL “continues to be the best premium content in the business.”