Big Bang Versus Big Bucks

Composite image by Alan Clanton and Lisa Herrin; images courtesy of CBS and NFL

Composite image by Alan Clanton and Lisa Herrin; images courtesy of CBS and NFL

By R. Alan Clanton Thursday Review editor

(Originally posted February 6, 2014) Big Bang Theory may be really big on CBS, but NFL is bigger. The NFL had its best year yet in 2013, and the most recent Super Bowl, despite being a one-sided affair in which the Seattle Seahawks ran roughshod over the hapless Denver Broncos, still managed to retain viewer loyalty right to the end—and, in fact, became the most watched TV event in history with 111.5 million viewers.

In one word: Bazinga!

CBS took notice, and recently concluded negotiations with the NFL for next year, at which time CBS will carry Thursday Night Football for the first eight Thursday games of the 2014 season. The Thursday pro football telecasts will supplement CBS’s already highly rated coverage of the AFC on Sundays.

But there is a slight problem: Big Bang Theory, one of CBS’s most popular sitcoms, airs weekly on Thursday nights, right in the middle of what will be NFL football games starting in the fall. That presents an explosive problem for ratings-centered programmers.

It’s Sheldon versus Sherman, so to speak.

The deal between the NFL and CBS was viewed by all parties involved as advantageous. The NFL wants more viewers to their pro games on Thursdays, games which typically receive the lowest viewership when compared to Sundays and Monday nights. The NFL has made no secret that they would like for the Thursday games to rival Sundays in ratings, and they saw CBS as the right vehicle for that wider audience. CBS also saw much to gain from grabbing those eight games. CBS outbid Fox, Turner Networks, NBC, and ESPN/ABC (both owned by the same parent company, Disney), but will gain the brief loyalty of the ever-growing audience for pro football, along with those ad dollars that follow.

Though figures have not been released officially, industry analysts believe that CBS paid approximately $250 million for the eight Thursday night games. That means CBS is betting big on more football.

The question remains: what will happen to the highly rated Big Bang?

Though CBS has not made a decision, most TV analysts suggest CBS will simply move Big Bang to another prime time location for that eight week period. Others have suspected that CBS might try to find a new permanent home for Big Bang Theory, disruptive though the move might be.

No matter what CBS decides, now everyone knows where the real clout resides when it comes to the ratings and the dollars. That means that for Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter (played by Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki), those hilarious Cal Tech physicists with the astronomically high IQs, brute force and brawn trump brains, at least on Thursday nights. Bazinga!

Related Thursday Review articles:

Super Bowl Sets New TV Ratings Record; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; February 4, 2014.

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