The obvious news contained in the release announcing the new Thursday night deal comes from the placement of eight early-season Thursday night games on CBS, to be simulcast on NFL Network.
The less obvious news, as pointed out by Ross Tucker while we were preparing for Wednesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, is that the NFL has exited the game-production business entirely.
CBS will be producing not only the games broadcast on both networks, but also the games shown exclusively on NFLN. As a result, it’ll be Jim Nantz and Phil Simms all year on Thursday nights, with the exception of the first Thursday of the season and Thanksgiving night, both of which games will be televised by NBC. (Of course, Nantz and Simms won’t be getting Thanksgiving off; they’ll be handling the CBS early-day game at Detroit.)
Beyond the displacement of the Brad Nessler-Mike Mayock broadcasting team, the move puts out of business all of the other folks who were producing the NFLN game broadcast. Some could be hired by CBS to work the Thursday night broadcast, in theory.
That said, NFL Network hosts and analysts will be featured in the pregame, halftime, and postgame shows, along with CBS Sports announcers.
Regardess, the league has disbanded — at least for 2014 — its game-production operation, handing the duties to CBS as part of the broader arrangement that allows CBS to protect its already-potent Thursday night programming against a challenge from FOX, ABC, or NBC.
And that ultimately may be why CBS made the (presumably) highest bid and agreed to finance the broadcast of the remaining NFLN games. CBS has owned Thursday nights. If it didn’t own the rights to those eight broadcast games, CBS would have surrendered Thursday night to whoever won the package.
Meanwhile, Nantz and Simms will become the first on-air team to consistently broadcast two games per week. It’ll present a significant challenge from a preparation and workload standpoint, giving them maybe one day off per week for most of the season and forcing them to bounce from game to game to game to game.
To game. And so on.