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NBC’s Lazarus Likes ‘TNF’ in Fourth Quarter

Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, pronounced adding five Thursday night NFL games next season as a big win for the network.

The powerful NFL opted to split its Thursday Night broadcast package into two five game chunks, with CBS getting five games in the first part of next season and NBC getting another five toward the end of the season. The NFL Network, which will simulcast those 10 games, will also televise 8 other games exclusively.

The two broadcast networks combined will pay about $450 million for 10 games, up from the $350 million CBS alone paid for 8 games.

“This is a good win. It expands our relationship with the NFL,” Lazarus said. The deal makes NBC, which already airs the high rated Sunday Night Football, the first network to have multiple primetime nights with the NFL in one season, he noted.

The agreement was recognition of the high quality of NBC’s production, he said. “We’ll be able to use our powerful promotion and marketing machine to promote the entire Thursday night package. We’re committed to that,” he said.

The decision is recognition of the “faith and trust” the NFL has in NBC, he said. It will also give NBC a chance to “grow our primetime adult 18 to 49 audience,” he added, noting that NBC is No. 1 now in that demo.

Lazarus said that having games in the back half of the season is an advantage because “those games are likely to have playoff implications, making them more exciting and likely to attract big audiences.”

At the same time, it will be a good time to sell ads as marketer look to generate pre-holiday sales.

While NBC will have parts of a second NFL package, Lazarus said he didn’t think the network would have too much football. “There’s still a scarcity,” he said of the high-rated programming.

NBC’s schedule of Thursday night games will begin the Thursday before Thanksgiving. NBC traditionally had a Thanksgiving game, and that would be followed by Thursday night gives for four more weeks, giving the network six weeks in a row, right up until Christmas.

He said that continuity would also make it easier on NBC’s Entertainment schedulers, who will be able to launch their Thursday shows in September, October and the beginning of November, and then bring them back in January.