Right about now, CBS seems terribly excited about its Thursday-night football games, which start Sept. 11. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
In the TV world, an eight-episode deal is greeted with a
shrug. Shows are tossed out quickly.
Then there’s the deal involving Thursday football – eight weeks,
nothing more, no guarantee for next year. It is “the most important and biggest
initiative (for CBS) in decades,” Sean McManus said.
McManus -- former head of CBS News, current head of CBS Sports,
son of the late sportscasting great Jim McKay – isn’t used to overstatement. So
what makes these eight weeks so big?
It’s partly that everything else gets smaller. As ratings
decline amid a sea of choices and time-shifts, football stays steady. The
Sunday games on NBC reach No. 1; Mondays on ESPN come close.
Now the NFL was offering Thursdays, as an experiment. “This
is a one-year deal,” McManus said. “It’s our job to see if we can” make it
He’ll get seven straight Thursdays, simulcast with the NFL
Network … which has the night alone during the second half of the season. The
two will also combine for one Saturday doubleheader.
The first step is to make this not seem like just another
game. That includes:
Opening music, a notion that also propels Mondays
and Sundays. In an airport hangar, CBS filmed Rihanna singing Jay-Z’s “Run This
Town”; actor Don Cheadle will add weekly narration.
Sportscasters. CBS’ top unit – Jim Nantz and
Phil Simms, with Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines and retired referee Mike Carey
in the studio – will work each Thursday, even when the games are only on the NFL
Network. On 12 weeks, they’ll also do Sunday games. Preparation will be quick,
Simms said, but in modern times, “everything is at your fingertips.”
Fresh graphics and lots of cameras. “We’re going
to have absolutely every piece of equipment you would need for a football game,”
This will be more than networks have for play-off games,
McManus said. It includes a goal-line camera, a “special, high-def camera
suspended on one of the sidelines” and more. This is, CBS feels, a big deal.
“Thursday Night Football,” kick-off at 8:30 p.m.
Simulcast on CBS and NFL Network for seven
weeks, starting with the Steelers-Ravens game Sept. 11; then seven weeks only
on NFL Network. Also, a Saturday doubleheader, with one game on each network
Pre-game shows at 6 p.m. ET on the NFL Network,
then at 7:30 on both – but only on NFL Network in the second half of the season.
Post-game on NFL Network.