CBS's $275 Million Thursday-Night NFL Headache

The Pittsburgh Steelers play against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 28, 2013 in Baltimore Photograph by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

For CBS executives, the Ravens vs. Steelers game on Thursday, Sept. 11, was supposed to be an easy victory. There would be a solemn remembrance of a national tragedy followed by a nod to American perseverance, culminating in a rousing early-season matchup between fierce division rivals. The ratings would be huge. The post-game media coverage would be laudatory. Paying $275 million for the rights to produce and broadcast Thursday night football games for the first half of the NFL season would be seen universally as a master stroke for the network. Earlier this year after announcing the deal, CBS boss Leslie Moonves routinely discussed the partnership with the NFL in triumphant terms. He called it a “sure thing.”

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