It is raining at Pebble Beach today, where Sean McManus is on hand for this week’s coverage of the AT&T Pro-Am. However, his mood couldn’t be brighter the day after CBS landed the NFL’s new eight-game package of Thursday night games.
Here’s my Q/A with the CBS Sports chairman on the deal:
What is your understanding about the quality of the eight Thursday games that will be on CBS?
I’ve been working with the NFL for 16 years, and they always figure out a way to give all the networks a number of high quality games. That’s why the ratings are increasing across the board. When the NFL (added Sunday night games on NBC), they understood the importance of getting off to a good start. They understand the importance of having good quality games to launch this schedule on Thursday nights.
Every team will play a Thursday game. Is it safe to assume CBS won’t get a game featuring a struggling team like Jacksonville?
We’ve got a good understanding we’re going to get a slate of games worthy of primetime. Other than that, it is in the hands of Howard Katz (and the NFL scheduling team).
Why was it important for the NFL to have Jim Nantz and Phil Simms call the entire package of Thursday night games?
It was clear when they started to talk to us, it was of primary importance to them to have A talent and an A production team do these games. We weren’t sure what the other networks thought, but if we wanted to be leaders in the clubhouse, we had to commit to Jim and Phil doing these games.
What will be their schedule regarding Sunday games?
Jim and Phil still will do most of the big doubleheader games. But to be honest with you, their primary focus will be Thursday night football. I don’t want to diminish our Sunday package. It’s very important to us. However, to launch Thursday nights successfully, this is our No. 1 priority.
CBS is No. 1 in primetime. Why was it important for the network to land this package?
Getting the Thursday night package is as high a priority for CBS as I can recall in recent memory. It was enormous for my boss, (CBS CBS President & CEO Les Moonves). He was involved in every meeting with the NFL and on most of the calls. If the head of the company says this is the highest priority, it sends a message to the NFL.
The NFL dominates the ratings. Even though we dominate in primetime, the thought of someone else programming the NFL (against CBS on Thursday night) was not an attractive proposition for us.
With the retirement of Dan Dierdorf, what are your thoughts on a new No. 2 team, which will be the defacto No. 1 on the weeks Nantz and Phil are off?
We haven’t crossed that bridge yet. We have some initial thoughts. The good news is that we’re stocked with terrific play-by-play men in (Ian Eagle, Greg Gumbel, Kevin Harlan and Marv Albert). In a practical sense, on most single-header weekends, there’s not a big difference in the distribution of the games. But we will have a pecking order.
This deal only is for one year with an NFL option. Did CBS push for a longer deal?
You always would like a longer contract. This is the first year. While we all assume it is going to be successful, there are no guarantees. This was their condition to sell us the property. A short-term deal is a whole lot better than no deal at all.