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CBS's Thursday Night Football: An Ambitious Alliance With A Lot At Stake

CBS's Thursday Night Football: An Ambitious Alliance With A Lot At Stake

Posted by Liliana Castaño on September 04, 2014

How much football is too much for TV?

That's the question CBS and the NFL may face Sept. 11, when the curtain rises on their ambitious experiment to build a new broadcast television home for pro football on Thursdays.

NBC will air the first game of the season Thursday, Sept. 4, but CBS won the rights to broadcast eight more Thursday games starting with the Sept. 11 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Those games will air simultaneously on CBS and the NFL Network cable channel; CBS's top-line talent will also handle the NFL Network games that don't air on the broadcaster — evidence of how badly CBS President and CEO Les Moonves wanted this deal.

For the TV industry, it's a no-brainer. The most-watched show on television last season was NBC's Sunday Night Football, drawing an average 21 million viewers each night. And among the top 10 programs of last TV season with young viewers, four of them were football-related shows on NBC or CBS.

Moonves, one of the industry's savviest deal-makers and programmers, knows this better than anyone.

"This is a sure thing," the CEO declared to an audience of critics and reporters gathered for a July press conference with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "This is the program we know is going to work, we know is going to be on the air for many, many years on broadcast television. ... The entire network is behind it."

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