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11/21/2014 12:58 pm ET

NFL's Thursday Night Football A Hot Commodity Among Networks

Grant Halverson via Getty Images

By Steve Lepore, Awful Announcing

There’s been much spoken about the union of CBS and NFL Network to broadcast Thursday Night Football this season. You’ve seen complaints about the quality of games on an almost weekly basis, even though that problem has plagued NBC’s Sunday Night Football just as badly, if not worse. That said, CBS got the desired effect from televising the games, increasing their audience on a night they were already competitive on.

Basically, why quit when you’ve got a profitable, if flawed, thing going?

John Ourand of Sports Business Daily spoke to pretty much every network head at SBJ/SBD’s Sports Media and Technology conference. While they all plan to bid, Ourand — who is usually bang on with stuff like this — predicts that CBS will retain Thursday Night Football in 2015. Whether its through the league option or a new deal is for another day.

Put simply, every network still wants to televise this package, however, as blowouts have done little to tarnish the league (and the idea of games on Thursday nights) in the networks’ eyes:

The leaders of four network sports divisions were asked a simple question at a recent industry conference: “Are you interested in bidding for ‘Thursday Night Football?’”

“Absolutely,” said Turner Broadcasting System President David Levy.

“Yes,” said NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus.

“We always look at properties that come to the market,” said Fox Networks Group PresidentRandy Freer.

“We have an interest in doing another year,” said CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus.

ESPN was in a quiet period ahead of Disney’s third-quarter earnings release and did not participate in the Nov. 5 panel session that led off the 2014 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology conference in New York — but its executives have said they are interested, as well.

So Thursday Night Football isn’t going away, not anytime soon. The NFL will decide upon a partner for 2015 (and possibly beyond) in the months to come. Perhaps they will also come upon a format to keep these games competitive and fresh, like a bye week for each team involved beforehand, if possible. That might force the NFL to have bye weeks in Weeks 1-15, but it might be worth it to make their budding franchise a true hit with diehard fans.

[Sports Business Daily]

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