The National Football League on Sunday agreed to continue Thursday Night Football on CBS for the 2015-2016 season, according to Deadline.
There’s a lot affiliates can do for viewers watching (and not watching) football.
The deal again gives the network a slate of eight prime-time games that will air simultaneously on NFL Network. Last year’s series wrapped on Oct. 23, a week before the start of November sweeps.
As Deadline notes, the 2014 Thursday Night Football matchups were not a ratings smash, but it would have been foolish not to continue the agreement, especially in a season in which the Super Bowl will be broadcast on CBS.
The prime-time games also present an opportunity to local affiliates who will find their programming preempted by football.
Back in the day, a sports preemption was considered a day off, and everyone in the newsroom breathed a little easier knowing their deadlines were extended a few hours.
But now I look at it differently. Now I think an on-air preemption is an opportunity to experiment with live programming online. Whether it’s a newscast or another live show, you can still produce content for viewers, a) not interested in the game, or, b) watching with a device in their hands.
The traditional newscast can still start online the same time it does every night, or you can try to come up with a new format that’s more appealing to an audience that gets all of their news online.
Those prime-time games also give local affiliates a chance to build their social brands – because you can be sure CBS and NFL Network will be doing just that while they have a captive audience.
Before the season starts, come up with a social game plan to engage the viewer during Thursday Night Football. Get your followers involved before game time, let them debate the players and showcase their fandom. Find the fan bar in your city and have your team post up for the night. Share the viewer experience in the social space while you continue to deliver news content on the live stream.
Audience engagement is more valuable than game highlights on the nightly news, so you need a streaming and social plan for preemptions. You’ll be glad you did on those nights when Tampa Bay visits Atlanta and the final score is 56-14.
That really happened. Week 3.