NFL splits 'Thursday Night Football' between CBS and NBC; looking for 'tricast' with digital partner

Continuing to grow sports content licensing rights to stratospheric levels, the NFL will increase its fee for the broadcast portion of its Thursday Night Football franchise next season from $300 million to $450 million. 

Under the new deal, the league will split the rights between NBC and CBS, with each broadcast network paying $225 million for five regular-season Thursday night games. Last year, CBS paid $300 million as the sole Thursday Night Football broadcaster.

And these rights aren't even exclusive within the pay-TV ecosystem — the NFL Network will have simulcast rights to all 10 games. The cable channel will also have rights to eight pre-season and regular-season Thursday-night games not shown on CBS and NBC.

What's more, the league is looking to spread its Thursday-night package even thinner, with the possible addition of a digital partnership.

"We … look forward to expanding with a digital partner for what will be a unique tri-cast on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. 

Added Brian Rolapp, the NFL's executive vice president of media, to the Wall Street Journal: "We want as many voices talking about Thursday Night Football as possible."

Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris estimates that CBS lost $100 million on its Thursday-night deal this past season.

But CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves said the cross-promotional benefits of having the highly rated live programming provided the network with intangible benefits. 

"I won't lie to you and say it was profitable, but it was more than made up for in other benefits," he said. 

For more:
- read this CBS press release
- read this Wall Street Journal story
- read this Deadline Hollywood story

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