McManus: NFL’s ‘Tri-Cast’ Model Won’t Harm CBS Ratings

The NFL’s deal to have a streaming media partner for its Thursday night telecasts, with Twitter joining NFL Network and broadcast TV for what the league calls its “tri-cast” model, won’t negatively affect ratings, said Sean McManus, CBS Sports chairman. McManus said the two-screen consumption model around NFL game action will increasingly be the norm and that CBS ads get wider play when factoring in those watching the live NFL stream.

“It will truly be a second screen experience for the viewer,” he said. “We’re not concerned about cannibalization. We look at it as being additive as opposed to cannibalistic.”

McManus and Brian Rolapp, NFL executive VP of media and president/CEO of NFL Network, addressed the media about the upcoming NFL season at CBS headquarters in Manhattan.

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CBS had three goals when sitting with the NFL to negotiate the new Thursday night deal: retain some or all of the package, spend responsibly in doing so, and snag the early part of the Thursday lineup if it ended up being divided among broadcasters. The first half holds greater promotional might, McManus said, while the second half of the Thursday football schedule would more disrupt CBS primetime.

NBC and CBS will split the Thursday games this year after a couple years of CBS having the midweek franchise to itself, alongside NFL Network.

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“Would we have liked to have the entire package exclusively on CBS? I guess we would’ve, yeah,” McManus admitted, but acknowledged the NFL’s interest in bringing NBC and parent Comcast on board.

Pylon cam technology will return, said McManus, and The NFL Today will introduce a live update, around 12:30 p.m., of the specific game local viewers are preparing to watch. “I think it will add to the attractiveness of the pre-game show,” he said.

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The regular season action starts on CBS Sept. 11.

McManus is confident the Twitter pact will bring new viewers to Thursday Night Football. “I think Twitter will be very aggressive about reaching an audience we might not be reaching right now,” he said of social media’s younger skew.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.