NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE ; NFL Games Taking over Thursday Nights on CBS

By Cohen, Rachel | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), August 19, 2014 | Go to article overview

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE ; NFL Games Taking over Thursday Nights on CBS


Cohen, Rachel, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


NEW YORK - "The Big Bang Theory is one of the few television shows that can approach the NFL in viewership. CBS executives still didn't hesitate to temporarily move TV's top-rated comedy to a different night to make room for football. Already dominating Thursdays in prime time, CBS outbid its competitors when the league offered up games that had aired on NFL Network.

"The highest priority for this corporation at that time was acquiring Thursday Night Football,' CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said Monday.

Thursdays conjure up memories of "Must See TV. But viewers' habits are now very different from the NBC heyday of "The Cosby Show or "Friends.

So many more options abound: cable, Netflix, DVRs, on-demand. Viewers can fast-forward through ads or avoid them entirely.

According to Nielsen, premiere episodes of "The Big Bang Theory during the last TV season averaged a total of 23 million viewers over seven days - by that measure, even more than "Sunday Night Football.

But only 13.5 million watched live, compared with 20.9 million for the NFL games on NBC.

On Thursdays, that's especially problematic to advertisers, said Jack Myers, the chairman of media industry intelligence firm MyersBizNet. Thursdays brimmed with top shows because consumers are starting to think about their weekends: which movies they'll attend, which big-ticket items they'll buy, which restaurants they'll patronize.

So "The Big Bang Theory will anchor Monday nights while CBS broadcasts NFL games on Thursdays for seven weeks. CBS's regular Thursday lineup won't premiere until Oct. 30.

"They're not going to risk losing audience, that show is so hot, said Marc Berman of TV Media Insights. In the meantime, "The Big Bang Theory can help boost CBS's Monday lineup.

CBS averaged 8.3 million live viewers in prime time on Thursdays last fall, according to Nielsen. That's 2.8 million more than second- place ABC.

It seemed to need the Thursday night NFL package the least, but the last thing CBS wanted was to fall behind another network that added football's massive audiences.

The NFL first proved it could lure viewers in prime time when "Monday Night Football debuted on ABC in 1970. But in April 2005, ABC decided it could no longer afford the package. The games switched to sister network ESPN.

At the same time, the Sunday night package shifted from cable to NBC.

Much has changed since ABC made that decision. During the 2004 season, NFL games on ABC, CBS and Fox averaged 15.4 million viewers; prime-time shows on the big four networks averaged 9.8 million. By 2013, the NFL on CBS, Fox and NBC was up to 20. …

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