NBC To Get In On That Thursday Night Football Lovin’

For the last couple of seasons, CBS has been — with the exception of Thanksgiving night — the NFL’s sole dance partner on Thursday nights. But starting next season, CBS will have to get used to the idea of the league spending time romancing another “friend” — NBC.

The NFL announced today that both CBS and NBC will get Thursday night games for at least the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In order to make room on the loveseat for a second partner, it’s increasing the number of primetime network games to 10, meaning NBC and CBS will each get five.

And just to minimize the odds of the two competitors bumping into each other as they swap broadcasting duties, CBS will get the first five games of the season, with NBC picking up the remaining half. Yes, you’ll still need to figure out where the NFL Network is on your cable listings for those other Thursday games that aren’t simulcast on the broadcast networks.

Just like with the CBS deal, NBC will produce the game using its broadcasters (presumably Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, with Bob Costas getting paid to show up for a few minutes and look like he’d rather be watching baseball). All games will air on both the NFL network and on whichever broadcast partner shows up that week.

It wasn’t that long ago that ABC appeared glad to hand off Monday Night Football to its sportier corporate cousins at ESPN, so why are the networks all clamoring to put sports back on primetime? Most likely, it’s the ad money.

Even though Thursday Night Football is rarely the most watched game of the week, it brings in some big-time ad money. In 2014, a single commercial on a CBS airing of TNF sold for more than $400,000 for 30 seconds.

In addition to the fact that football has grown in popularity over the last decade, meaning bigger audiences for advertisers, the games are watched primarily on live TV. So, unlike primetime sitcoms, dramas, or reality shows that can be watched at your convenience, with live football there’s no skipping over annoying, repetitive ads with your DVR.