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Thursday Night Football expands: CBS and NBC split NFL broadcast package

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Thursday Night Football finally has a home for 2016 and 2017 — two homes, in fact. With multiple networks vying for the lucrative contract, the NFL made a deal with both CBS and NBC. The broadcast package will grow to a total of 10 games over the course of the season, split equally between the two TV giants.

The new agreement, announced today by the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, is good news for fans who don’t subscribe to NFL Network. While all 16 TNF games aired exclusively on the league’s own channel in 2014 and 2015, just eight were simulcast on its broadcast partner, CBS. This deal will bring an additional two games to outside broadcast networks.

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All 10 games will be simulcast on NFL Network, and the league-owned channel is also set to exclusively televise an eight-game mix of TNF match-ups, late-season Saturday games, and others still to be determined. Meanwhile, CBS is set to broadcast the first half of the simulcast package, while NBC will take the second half. For CBS, the new deal does mean scaling back to just five games compared to 2014 and 2015’s eight, but the agreement is certainly preferable to losing out on the coveted night altogether.

Thursday Night Football has provided extremely valuable programming and a powerful promotional platform to help launch CBS’s primetime schedule, contributing to our standing as the perennial Number One and most-watched network,” Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp., said in a related a press release. “Broadcasting the first half of the Thursday Night Football schedule is a terrific way to jump start the 2016-17 television season.”

The broadcast package, of course, didn’t come cheap. It’s believed that each network will pay $225 million for its five games, according to Deadline, though the exact dollar amount has not been confirmed. With TNF games averaging 13 million viewers in 2015, it’s clear why the deal was so tempting.

OTT streaming rights to TNF are still up for grabs, but the NFL is currently in discussions with potential digital partners. Goodell shared that the league is “continuing to make Thursday Night Football bigger and better,” and looks forward to “expanding with a digital partner for what will be a unique tri-cast on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms.”