Thankfully the pitiful offerings of summertime TV are almost over with the NFL revving up. If not for HBO, I would not turn the TV on in the summer. All we have for now is preseason football, which is not great, but it does look and smell like the real thing. We have just a few weeks until regular season NFL action gets rolling once again.
This year we will get some more games via the new Thursday Night Football deal with the NFL Network and CBS. The actual game production will be handled by CBS, with Jim Nantz and the ever pompous Phil Simms calling the action. The NFL Network team will handle the pre-game, halftime, and post-game coverage. Even though I am not a Simms fan, CBS’s in game work should be better than the NFL Network’s has been. But I am really happy to have the Network doing the commentary before games, between halves, and after the contests. I am more partial to those guys than the CBS in-studio fellas. I like James Brown, and that is the only nice thing I have to say about their NFL Today crew. Although they did add the charismatic Tony Gonzalez to the mix since he retired from the game.
The problem in the past with the NFL Network airing the live games on Thursdays was the fact that so few homes have the channel in their lineup. More and more people are getting on board but it is an extra cost for folks on their cable bill. This made ratings for Thursday Night Football some of the worst among any games in the NFL’s line up. The lackluster matchups also had something to do with that fact.
Teaming up with CBS will give a big boost to the TV ratings. Even people with no cable or satellite service can watch these games with a regular antenna. And yes, there are still a big number of Americans without cable service of any kind, believe it or not. This was a legitimate concern for Monday Night Football when it went to ESPN a few years ago. The more people that have access to your product, the better business will be, obviously. CBS broadens the scope of the NFL Network’s offerings for the first seven games at least. The next seven will only be available on the NFL Network. But then CBS jumps back in the mix with a Saturday doubleheader in late December.
Thursday Night Football will continue to gain momentum over the next few years. We Americans love us some NFL and the league is determined to grow by any means necessary. A big key to success is the face of the Network, Rich Eisen. The former SportsCenter anchor was the right guy for the big chair when Roger Goodell hired him. Eisen is likable, able to manage a bunch of big personalities on set, and he is damn good at his job. He does a free podcast as well that is very entertaining and insightful.
I also enjoy the work of most of Eisen’s cohorts on set. Michael Irvin, whom I hated as a player but love as a media personality, is as real as they come. Steve Mariucci is good, but I could do without Deion Sanders, who has always appeared phony to me. Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner also are knowledgeable former players who bring credibility to the Network’s coverage.
Now that Thursday Night Football has a major network in CBS to work with, it is here to stay. Being the only pro game on TV on a particular night certainly helps, although it is not the ‘event’ that Monday Night Football was back in the day. People have plenty of media options now. DVRs let us watch games we were too busy to catch on Sundays, there are a million channels, and the internet / mobile phones occupy much of our attention. As the game matchups get better each year, so will the ratings. More people will end up subscribing to the NFL Network to see the games not being simulcast by CBS. That was a smart move by the NFL to keep the last half of the season for themselves.
Eventually Thursday Night Football will not need a simulcast. Hopefully the day will come when we can cut the cord to cable and satellite completely. Being able to pick and choose what we want to watch via the internet without a cable subscription would be nice. There are options to watch online now, but some things are available only if you are subscribed to a cable or satellite service.
Will Thursday night be the last frontier of the NFL’s offerings? Not likely, but at some point there will be over saturation. I know that is difficult to fathom….hard for me to believe that I just typed it!
There has to be a point when people don’t need any extra NFL action. I do not know at what point that is, but it will be reached. Nothing can grow forever. They have a 24 hour network to cover every possible tidbit of news and opinion. Sundays are full of national games available to everyone. ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’ offers every game played for fee. And as if all that were not enough, you can see all the scoring you can stomach with ‘NFL Red Zone‘.
The NFL is king and will stay on top most likely forever. No sport comes close to their TV ratings. No, not even college football. I am looking forward to the new look Thursday night lineup of games. I am nowhere near my saturation point for the NFL. I may be too old / busy to stay up for some late night finishes, but I know how to use a DVR or catch the highlights later. Gone are the days as a kid, when I had only a couple games available on Sunday and a Monday night game. I can now binge watch the NFL anytime I get ready. Count me as ready.