Photographer: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

NFL Thursday Games to Be Split With CBS, NBC in Deal

  • Broadcasters are said to agree to pay $225 million a season
  • Pact allows NBC to expand beyond its Sunday broadcasts

CBS and NBC agreed to split Thursday National Football League games with the NFL’s own network in a two-year deal that underscores how much broadcasters value the ratings boost they get from America’s most popular sport.

The networks are each paying about $225 million a season for five games apiece, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The NFL plans to award rights to stream the games online soon, the league said in a statement. The CBS and NBC games will be simulcast on the NFL Network, which will also carry some matchups exclusively.

CBS has broadcast eight Thursday games in each of the past two seasons, paying about $300 million last year, according to various reports at the time. Bloomberg News was first to report that the parties had reached an agreement to split the games next year.

The pact expands NFL broadcasts -- the highest-rated in U.S. sports -- on NBC, which already airs Sunday night games. The Comcast Corp. unit is striving for the ratings crown this season, trailing CBS Corp.’s flagship network in total households but leading with the prime demographic of adults 18 to 49.

“We’re the first network to have multiple first prime-time packages,” NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said in an interview. “The opportunity to expand our relationship with the NFL and its powerful content is flattering to us.”

CBS said in September that the season’s first broadcast of “Thursday Night Football,” a game between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs, set a record for the program’s ratings. CBS also has deals to air regional games on Sundays during the regular season and will broadcast the Super Bowl this weekend.

“We had two priorities: one was to maintain the relationship on ‘Thursday Night Football,’ and the second was to get the games at the beginning half to launch our prime time schedule,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in an interview.

Since 2006, the NFL has used Thursday nights as an experiment of sorts, using the games to help introduce its NFL Network and allowing CBS last season to stream the broadcasts online.

(Corrects teams in CBS broadcast in third-to-last paragraph.)
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