When CBS began carrying “Thursday Night Football” in September, the network did not expect one blowout after another during the first four weeks. It had promoted its new prime-time package throughout the CBS empire and moved a durable ratings hit, “The Big Bang Theory,” to Monday nights. For its efforts and a $275 million rights fee, CBS was getting this?
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by 20 points, three days after graphic video surfaced showing Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée.
The Atlanta Falcons trounced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 42. The Giants overwhelmed the Washington Redskins by 31. And the Green Bay Packers wrecked the Minnesota Vikings by 32.
“No question, we were pulling our hair out,” said Leslie Moonves, the president and chief executive of the CBS Corporation. “We’d spent a lot of money promoting these games, and you’re watching one game after another tank.”
More competitive contests might have increased viewership of those games, but the next four (three on Thursday and one on Saturday) featured only one lopsided contest and did not produce bigger audiences. Indeed, the first four games and the last four games averaged just over 16 million viewers on CBS and NFL Network, which simulcast them.
For CBS, the games had done their job by helping it promote new programs, build up its Monday programming and show fewer repeats.
“As a network, we’re much stronger with ‘Thursday Night Football’ than without it,” said Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports.
An N.F.L. game has value beyond a half-hour sitcom, even one as valuable as “Big Bang,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president for research at Horizon Media.
“First, the game is live, for three hours, and ‘Big Bang’ is one of the most heavily time-shifted shows on television, so there’s a concern about whether its ads are being seen,” he said.
According to Advertising Week, advertisers paid $483,333 for 30-second ads during Thursday night games last season. CBS executives said that price had risen by below 10 percent this season.
Kantar Media calculated that CBS had sold $254.8 million in advertising that capitalized on the desire of film studios, carmakers and retailers to prime buyers for weekend purchases.
“You wouldn’t want to sell against it,” said Jo Ann Ross, the president of network sales for the CBS Television Network, referring to the Thursday night games.
CBS, which will carry Super Bowl 50 in February, is the only network that owns two N.F.L. packages, an enviable position despite the league’s woes from concussion litigation, the mishandling of domestic violence cases and the deflated-football controversy that could keep New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady off the field for the first four games of the season.
From their inception in 2006, Thursday night games were the league’s lesser television offspring. Players and coaches were not thrilled by the short week of preparation. But the league — hoping to stretch its influence beyond Sundays and Mondays — viewed Thursday as another prime-time opportunity. Its channel, NFL Network, carried the games exclusively through 2013.
But the league gradually shifted its thinking, coming to believe that Thursday could truly be an appointment night for the N.F.L., as it had for college football.
In CBS, the league saw the most-viewed broadcast network in prime time and put the Thursday night franchise in its hands. Eight games were placed on CBS (and simulcast on NFL Network). The remaining eight were carried by NFL Network and broadcast stations in the markets of the teams playing.
CBS agreed to produce all the games and gave an added assignment to its No. 1 Sunday afternoon broadcast team, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
But the league has decided not to make a long-term deal with CBS. Last season’s one-year contract was followed by a similar one, at $300 million, for 2015. Take it or leave it.
“Is that frustrating?” said Moonves, who paused before responding. “Would we have liked more? Absolutely.”
Asked if he will remain patient if the league seeks another one-year deal for 2016, McManus said, “I’m not sure what the alternative is.” He added, “We weren’t shy about proposing a long-term deal.”
The N.F.L. is reluctant to agree to a contract longer than a year because of the changing media landscape. People are untethering themselves from cable and satellite subscriptions in which they pay for channels they do not want and are choosing Internet-based services instead. Whether the league wants to align Thursday night games with old or new media is a question it seems unready to answer. At what point will it be time to stream “Thursday Night Football” directly to consumers rather than distribute it by traditional means, where a long-term deal could yield a billion dollars or more?
“I think it’s fair to say everything’s on the table,” said Brian Rolapp, the league’s executive vice president for media. “We know we have a really good thing with CBS, and we’re focusing on this year. Thursday is the only package that isn’t long term, and we think a little differently about it. In this day and age, to lock into one model isn’t the smartest thing anymore.”
The future of Thursday night games, as a possible digital property, could become a bit clearer after Yahoo globally streams the Oct. 25 game in London between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But CBS executives accept that the league is undecided — or is at least keeping its lucrative options open.
For now, Thursday night games will resume on CBS on Sept. 17, with the Denver Broncos playing the Kansas City Chiefs, followed by reprises of three matchups from last season — Redskins-Giants, Baltimore-Pittsburgh and Indianapolis-Houston. And CBS, happy to let the games enhance its prime-time power, will hope to keep them in 2016 and beyond.
Credit to the NY Times who originally published this article
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
Mina Kimes: Deshaun Watson ‘Bailed Out Our Entire Industry by Being Bad’
“If he was playing well, I would be inundated by hate mail right now because that’s what happens
Mina Kimes was not alone in condemning the Cleveland Browns for signing Deshaun Watson to a record guaranteed contract as he was facing dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct. This is the first full season Watson has played for the Browns and he has been less than impressive through the first two weeks of the season.
Kimes says that in a strange way, it something she and her colleagues should be happy about.
“This dude just bailed out our entire industry by being bad,” she said this week on Pablo Torre Finds Out.
She said that she has talked to a number of fellow NFL analysts and writers that feel “a little bit of relief” that there is nothing about Watson to celebrate right now.
It isn’t lost on Kimes that maybe not having to talk about Deshaun Watson like he is any other star in the NFL isn’t necessarily a good thing.
“We never had to reckon with, and maybe we will. You know, it’s been two weeks, but we certainly haven’t, so far, had to reckon with that cognitive dissonance in what it would have entailed,” she said.”
Winning and outstanding performance can scrub clean a lot of scandal in the minds of the public. Kimes noted that even mentioning the allegations against Watson would be met very differently if he weren’t struggling.
“Right now, because he’s playing bad, because he’s playing poorly, if you were to put a clip of me saying something about the fact that he was accused of all these sexual crimes and misdemeanors and whatnot, and if you put that out now, I would not get heat,” she said. “That’s what I want to drill down on here. Like, if you aggregated this and put it out, I would not get hate mails. If he was playing well, I would be inundated by hate mail right now because that’s what happens.”
Shannon Sharpe: Skip Bayless and I ‘Barely Talked’
“It was really like a heavyweight fight.”
As Shannon Sharpe gave a heartfelt goodbye to his longtime Undisputed co-host Skip Bayless, it marked the end of a near seven-year run together on FOX Sports 1. For two-and-a-half hours each morning, Sharpe and Bayless would debate the sports topics of the day and help define an era of debate television. Directly opposing them for most of that time was First Take on ESPN, a show that they had both been a part of in varying capacities over the years.
Stephen A. Smith, working alongside analyst Max Kellerman and host Molly Qerim, engaged in a similar format before the show adopted a new format in late 2021. As Smith utilized the deep ESPN talent pool to have experts on different topics oppose him, the show grew in popularity and, at times, left Undisputed significantly behind in the ratings.
Sharpe is now a member of First Take and is contributing to the program on Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the football season. At the same time, he is building Shay Shay Media with his flagship Club Shay Shay Podcast on The Volume and working to produce content in tandem with the media brand.
Nonetheless, he misses working with FOX Sports 1 on a daily basis because of all the people on the lot aside from the show itself. From the security guard that would walk him to and from his car every day to those in wardrobe, props and in the cafeteria, no longer being able to see them for 240 days throughout the year has been a difficult thing to come to terms with.
“People don’t understand just how hard I worked at that job,” Sharpe said in a recent interview on The Stephen A. Smith Show. “What they saw was the two-and-a-half hours a day, but they didn’t see the prep – the six-seven hours of prep time I actually did to get ready for the show [and] the re-watching of the entire show to try and get better.”
After Sharpe completed his protracted answer to Smith about the things he misses most regarding FOX Sports, the First Take featured commentator elocuted an observation he made therein.
“You do understand that in that lengthy answer that you just gave to my question, you did not mention Skip Bayless one time,” Smith said. “You do know that.”
There were reportedly growing tensions between Sharpe and Bayless that ultimately led to the latter’s exit from the network. When Sharpe officially departed, Bayless and FOX Sports 1 management began work on compiling a new cast and format for the program, which relaunched earlier this month. Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson, Richard Sherman, Rachel Nichols, Josina Anderson and Lil’ Wayne have all appeared on the show as contributors, facing off against Bayless, an institution and influential professional in the format.
Sharpe has gone on the record numerous times to thank Bayless for everything he did to welcome him to the network and create a stellar program. The part that he revealed to Smith was that they did not have much of a relationship off of the set, even within the corridors of the production facility.
“Skip would get to work; I would get to work,” Sharpe described. “I was in my dressing room; he was in his dressing room. It was really like a heavyweight fight. We barely talked…. [and] it was not a carry on a conversation and then, all of a sudden, we get up there and do what we do…. It was very little communication.”
Some of the public perception of Sharpe’s time on FOX Sports 1 and the split he had with the network adopted the notion, “Skip Bayless made Shannon Sharpe.” The remark perturbs Sharpe, who was a three-time Super Bowl champion and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame before he started working at the network. As one of the most accomplished tight ends in the history of the National Football League, he had already been enshrined in the history of the game and sports as a whole in perpetuity. The aspect of his being that FOX Sports 1 helped him with was in becoming more popular and well-known, and it is something he owes to Bayless and the program itself.
“Skip Bayless did not make Shannon Sharpe relatable. Skip Bayless did not make Shannon Sharpe the storyteller that he is [and] Skip Bayless did not make Shannon Sharpe the football player that can break down plays,” Sharpe articulated. “….I miss debating him, but it had gotten to the point over the last six-seven months – and I won’t allow it to ruin the six great years that we had – but it had gotten to the point that we needed to go our separate ways.”
Rick Cordella Named President of NBC Sports
“Rick has been at the epicenter of NBC Sports for years with a proven track record of growth and innovation…”
Three months after Pete Bevacqua stepped down as the chairman of NBC Sports to become the new athletic director at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater, the company has decided on its next leader. Rick Cordella, who has been with NBCUniversal since 2006 serving in a variety of different roles, has been promoted to the role of “President, NBC Sports,” and will report directly to Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBCUniversal Media Group.
Cordella most recently served as the president of programming for NBC Sports and Peacock Sports, a role in which he oversaw strategy for the sustained growth of both platforms. Peacock will be the exclusive home of a game within the NFL Wild Card round on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, marking the first time such an occurrence is taking place. Cordella was an integral member of the founding team for Peacock and served as the chief commercial officer for the over-the-top (OTT) streaming service. Under his leadership, NBC Sports garnered the accolade for the most-streamed Olympics and Super Bowl in history as the platform more than doubled its subscriber count year-over-year (YoY) to 24 million.
The six-time Sports Emmy Award winner began his tenure with the company within its fantasy sports properties, specifically overseeing Rotoworld and a variety of additional websites under its purview. Cordella was also a board member of FanDuel and represented NBC Sports on behalf of its investment in the sportsbook and gambling company. Additionally, he also has experience in digital media and has worked on the launch of several direct-to-consumer and online services, including NBC Sports Gold, ProFootballTalk and NBCSports.com, while also outlining content and editorial strategy.
“Rick has been at the epicenter of NBC Sports for years with a proven track record of growth and innovation across all platforms, particularly our flagship NBC network as well as Peacock, where he helped architect our leadership role in sports and streaming,” Lazarus said in a statement. “Rick will oversee the evolution of our business as we continue to offer the best experiences and content to our viewers, as well as be the best partner to leagues and rights holders.”
NBC is in the second year of a $20 billion media rights contract with the National Football League, primarily centered on its Sunday Night Football property. The lead broadcast booth of Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark is in its second season working together. NBC also started broadcasting Big Ten Conference football games this fall with its new B1G Ten Saturday property featuring Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge and Kathryn Tappen.
The company recently reacquired the rights for WWE SmackDown, which will air weekly starting in Oct. 2024 on USA Network, and will produce four specials in prime time each year as part of the deal. NBC is paying $7.75 billion to broadcast the Olympic Games through the 2028 festivities in Los Angeles, Calif., and has been working with Major League Baseball to present an exclusive Sunday morning contest on Peacock each week. These properties, plus other aspects of its business, will be under the leadership of Lazarus, Cordella and other executives at the company.
“It’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing,” Cordella told John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. “It’s less about this being the start of a new day and more about how we’re going to keep executing the way we have.”