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CBS and NBC sign on for expanded Thursday Night Football, NFL seeks digital partner

American football league the NFL has struck new two-season deals for its Thursday Night Football rights package, continuing its partnership with CBS while also adding rival US network NBC as a partner as it seeks a digital contract for what it says will be a “unique tri-cast” model.

The new broadcast deals will expand Thursday Night Football for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Both CBS and NBC will broadcast five games, growing the package to 10 broadcast games in 2016 and 2017 from eight in 2014 and 2015.

All Thursday Night Football broadcast games will continue to be simulcast on the league’s cable television channel NFL Network. The league added that NFL Network will also exclusively televise an eight-game schedule of regular-season games comprised of Thursday Night Football, late-season games on Saturday, and additional games to be determined.

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal newspaper said CBS and NBC will pay $225m (€207.9m) each for the rights. CBS has broadcast Thursday Night Football over the 2014 and 2015 seasons under consecutive one-year deals. CBS currently pays $300m per season for the rights.

Both CBS and NBC will produce Thursday Night Football with their lead broadcasters and production teams, and both will contribute to the production of Thursday Night Football exclusively on NFL Network. CBS and NFL Network will televise the first half of the Thursday Night Football schedule, with NBC and NFL Network televising the second half.

The NFL added that it is in “active discussions” with prospective digital partners for OTT streaming rights to Thursday Night Football. A deal announcement is expected in the near future.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said: “We are continuing to make Thursday Night Football bigger and better. CBS has played an integral role over the last two seasons in helping build Thursdays as a night for NFL football, and we're excited to have them on board again. At the same time, we're thrilled to add NBC to the Thursday Night Football mix, a trusted partner with a proven track record of success broadcasting NFL football in primetime, and look forward to expanding with a digital partner for what will be a unique tri-cast on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms.”

Thursday Night Football started in 2006 with an eight-game schedule exclusively on NFL Network. By 2012, Thursday Night Football had grown to a 13-game schedule exclusively on NFL Network, where it remained throughout the 2013 season. For both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, CBS partnered with NFL Network to present an expanded 16-game Thursday Night Football schedule.