The NFL on CBS logo used beginning with the network's broadcast of Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016.
GenreAmerican football telecasts
Presented by
Opening themeSee NFL on CBS music
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons59
No. of episodes5,000+[1]
Production locationsVarious NFL stadiums (game telecasts and playoff pregame/postgame shows)
CBS Broadcast Center, New York City (studio segments, pregame and postgame shows)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time210 minutes or until game ends
Production companiesNational Football League
CBS Sports
Original release
NFL Sunday Ticket
  • Original run: September 30, 1956 (1956-09-30) – January 23, 1994 (1994-01-23)
  • Current run: September 6, 1998 (1998-09-06) – present (present)
The NFL Today
Thursday Night Football
NFL on Yahoo!

The NFL on CBS is the branding used for broadcasts of National Football League (NFL) games that are produced by CBS Sports, the sports division of the CBS television network in the United States. The network has aired NFL game telecasts since 1956 (with exception of a break from 1994 to 1997). From 2014 to 2017, CBS also broadcast Thursday Night Football games during the first half of the NFL season, through a production partnership with NFL Network.


In August 1956, the DuMont Television Network, the NFL's primary television partner, ended network operations after years of decline. DuMont had already sold the rights to the NFL Championship to NBC in 1955, and when DuMont ended its regular season coverage, CBS acquired the rights.

CBS' coverage began on September 30, 1956 (the first regular season broadcast was a game between the visiting Washington Redskins against the Pittsburgh Steelers), before the 1970 AFL–NFL merger. Prior to 1968, CBS had an assigned crew for each NFL team. As a result, CBS became the first network to broadcast some NFL regular season games to selected television markets across the country. From 1970 until the end of the 1993 season, when Fox won the broadcast television contract to that particular conference, CBS aired NFL games from the National Football Conference. Since 1975, game coverage has been preceded by pre-game show The NFL Today, which features game previews, extensive analysis and interviews.


CBS's first attempts to broadcast the NFL on television were notable for there being no broadcasting contract with the league as a whole. Instead, CBS had to strike deals with individual teams to broadcast games into the teams' own markets, many of which CBS had purchased from the moribund DuMont Television Network. Every club but Cleveland joined forces with CBS. Meanwhile in order to show regional games to regional audiences, CBS set out to divide its network into nine regional networks: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington, Green Bay, Chicago and on the Pacific Coast (Los Angeles and San Francisco).

Often the games would be broadcast with "split audio" – that is, a game between two franchises would have the same picture in both teams' "networks" (the visiting team's home city and affiliates of the home team's "network" beyond a 75-mile radius of the home team's television market). Each team's "network" had different announcers (usually those working in their home markets).

The New York Giants in particular were carried on the DuMont network, then CBS (airing locally on WCBS-TV, channel 2) in the early days of the NFL of the league's television broadcasts, when home games were blacked out within a 75-mile radius of New York City. Chris Schenkel was their play-by-play announcer in that early era when each team was assigned its own network voice on its regional telecasts. At the time, there were few if any true national telecasts until the NFL championship game, which was carried by NBC. Schenkel was joined by Jim McKay, later Johnny Lujack through the 1950s and the early 1960s. As Giants players retired to the broadcast booth in the early and 1960s, first Pat Summerall, then Frank Gifford took the color analyst slot next to Schenkel. As the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL approached, CBS moved to a more generic announcer approach while Schenkel left to join ABC Sports.

From 1956 to 1959, the Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles only had their away games telecast on CBS. When these three played at home, there was no need for the usage of split audio. Instead, the away team's telecasts were produced in a simple singular audio-video feed. In 1959, 1960 and 1961, NBC had the rights to televise Colts and Steelers home games. While the game broadcasts were blacked out (as per NFL policy) in those cities, they were available to other NBC-affiliated stations.

The Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals only produced home telecasts for their vast network. Because of this, if the Bears played the Colts in Baltimore or the Cardinals visited Forbes Field to play the Steelers during this period, it was likely that the games were not televised by CBS (although from 1959 to 1961, they might have been shown by NBC). Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns had their own network, part of Sports Network Incorporated (SNI) and Carling Beer.

Year-by-year breakdown

The Week 5 game between New York and Philadelphia in 1956 was a national telecast with the Giants crew (Chris Schenkel and Gene Kirby) calling the shots. The Week 13 game between the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Colts in 1956 was also a national telecast with the Washington voices (Arch McDonaldand Jim Gibbons) calling the game. The 1957 Pro Bowl was offered to NBC, then CBS. Both declined to carry the game. ABC was then offered to televise and accepted, but could not gain enough clearance of affiliates in time to make it a profitable venture. Thus they also dropped out and the game was not televised.

When CBS televised a Week 1 game between the Bears and Green Bay Packers in 1957, it not only served as a rare occurrence of an away game shown on the Chicago CBS network, but an regular season NFL telecast shown in Chicago. This particular game (called by Red Grange and Bill Fay for the Chicago market and Ray Scott and Johnny Lujack for the Green Bay market) was the first official game ever played in the new City Stadium, which we now know as Lambeau Field. Also in Week 1 of the 1957 season, the Philadelphia-Los Angeles game not televised, so the Eagles crew of Byrum Saam and Jack Whitaker worked the Detroit-Baltimore game back to the Philadelphia region. Meanwhile, Jim McKay worked with Chris Schenkel for that week's New York-Cleveland game.

Per the October 17, 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated, the Redskins-Cardinals game in Week 2 of the 1957 season was a virtual national telecast, seen everywhere except the West Coast and the Green Bay and Detroit networks. Arch McDonald and Jim Gibbons called the game for the Washington market while Joe Boland and Joe Foss called it for the Chicago market. Also per the November 4, 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated, the Chicago Bears-Los Angeles game was listed as not being televised.

For the Thanksgiving Day game in 1957 between Green Bay and Detroit, Joe Boland and Bob Kelley worked the national audio feed. Meanwhile, Ray Scott and Johnny Lujack called the game for the Green Bay market and Van Patrick, Bob Reynolds and Les Bingaman called it for the Detroit market. One week later, the New York-Pittsburgh game was a national telecast, simply using the Giants on-air talent (Chris Schenkel and Jim McKay). The Week 13 game between Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cardinals was originally scheduled to be televised at least regionally, but with nothing at stake for this game and with the Detroit-San Francisco Western tiebreaker set for later in the day, this game was dropped from telecast.

For 1958, Red Grange partnered with Bill Fay to do play-by-play on the CBS Chicago football network when the Bears were home. At this point, the Cleveland Browns were still a part of the syndicated Sports Network outside of the Cleveland region, which consisted of non-CBS affiliates. Leon Hart would join the Detroit Lions broadcast crew (consisting of Van Patrick and Bob Reynolds) for 1958. The Lions also simulcast the team of Patrick and Reynolds for radio and the CBS-TV Lions network.

Per the November 3, 1958 issue of Sports Illustrated the Chicago Bears-Los Angeles game in Week 6 was not televised. For that year's Thanksgiving Day game between Green Bay and Detroit, three crews were used (a national feed and local audio feeds for the Green Bay and Detroit networks). On the coast-to-coast audio, Joe Boland and Chris Schenkel split play-by-play duties. Meanwhile, Ray Scott and George Connor called the game for the Green Bay market while Van Patrick, Bob Reynolds, and Leon Hart called the game for the Detroit market. The 1958 tiebreaker game between Cleveland and New York featured Chris Schenkel and Ken Coleman splitting a half of play-by-play with Johnny Lujack as color throughout.

By 1959, CBS had at least 11 teams under contract. The Cleveland Browns were still pretty much, the lone exception. CBS' broadcast of the New York-Los Angeles game (called by Chris Schenkel and Johnny Lujack) in Week 1, was a national telecast that was carried live. CBS would not dare preempt the ratings powerhouse that was Gunsmoke so the game started at approximately 11:15 p.m. Eastern Time. Meanwhile, the huge Chicago network carried only home games of the Cardinals and Bears. Thus Week 1's Bears-Packers game (called by Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo) was seen only on the Packers network (subject to blackout) and the Redskins-Cardinals game (called by Jim Gibbons and Eddie Gallaher for the Washington market and Joe Boland and Paul Christman for the Chicago market) was seen on the CBS Chicago network, which may have reached 40% of the country. The Eagles crew of Byrum Saam and Jack Whitaker worked that week's Detroit-Baltimore game for the New York and Philadelphia CBS networks. Finally, the Philadelphia-San Francisco game was seen only on the CBS Pacific network, thus only the 49ers commentators (Bob Fouts and Gordy Soltau) were heard.

On October 11, 1959 during Week 3, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell, while in the stands for the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia game (with Joe Tucker on commentary), suffered a fatal heart attack. In Week 6 of the 1959 season, the full CBS Pacific network was tuned into the Chicago Bears-Los Angeles game (called by Bob Kelley and Elroy Hirsch). Due to the quirk that the Eagles did not televise home games and the Cardinals did not televise away games on their respective networks in 1959, the Philadelphia-Chicago Cardinals game in Week 8 was by design, not televised.

CBS once again used three separate audio feeds for the Thanksgiving Day game in 1959. Joe Boland and Paul Christman, the Cardinals crew, worked the coast-to-coast feed, Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo were heard on the CBS Packers network, and Van Patrick and Bob Reynolds were used for the Lions CBS network (subject to blackout). The Detroit network also plugged into Week 10's San Francisco-Cleveland game (called by Bob Fouts and Gordy Soltau on CBS and Ken Coleman and Jimmy Dudley on Cleveland's syndicated network). The following week, the Packers' CBS network plugged into Pittsburgh-Chicago Bears game (called by Joe Tucker for the Pittsburgh market and Red Grange and George Connor for the Chicago market) while the Colts' CBS network plugged into Cleveland-New York game (called by Chris Schenkel and Johnny Lujack for CBS).

For the final week of the 1959 regular season, the Packers' CBS network (again composed of Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo) plugged into Detroit-Chicago bears match-up (called by Van Patrick and Bob Reynolds for the Detroit market and Red Grange and George Connor for the Chicago market) while the Colts' CBS network plugged into New York-Washington game (called by Chris Schenkel and Johnny Lujack for the New York market and by Jim Gibbons and Eddie Gallaher for the Washington market).


1960 saw the addition of a new team to the NFL in the form of the Dallas Cowboys. At this point, out of the 13 NFL teams, 10 were aligned with CBS. Two joined forces with NBC (the Colts and the Steelers) and one (the Browns) rejoined its partner, the syndicated Sports Network. Also, the Chicago Cardinals moved to St Louis. So both the expansion Cowboys and relocated Cardinals would cut severely into the monstrous Chicago CBS Network. A silver lining of this however was that WBBM viewers would at least, be able to see at least away games of their Bears on TV, after being virtually shut out from pro football telecasts for years.

The Week 3 telecast between Baltimore and Green Bay in 1960 was seen locally in Baltimore area on WMAR in Baltimore and WSBA in York, Pennsylvania. The game featured Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo on the call. In Week 8, Channel 11 in Pittsburgh, Channel 6 in Johnstown, and Channel 10 in Altoona formed regional coverage in Western Pennsylvania for the Steelers-Giants game. The game was called by Joe Tucker and Red Donley for the Pittsburgh market and by Chris Schenkel and Johnny Lujack for the New York market. For 1960's Thanksgiving Day game, CBS had the Green Bay crew (Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo) call the game nationally, with the Lions' crew (Van Patrick and Bob Reynolds) doing audio for the CBS Lions network.

1961 would serve as the final year that each NFL team would be on their own for TV coverage. CBS had 11 teams under contract, including the expansion Minnesota Vikings. NBC continued to televise 13 Sundays involving either the Colts and Steelers (the odd week was when NBC had the World Series) and the Browns again had their deal with Carling Beer and the Sports Network (SNI, forerunner to the Hughes Sports Network). On September 17, 1961, CBS Sports broadcast the first remote 15-minute pre-game show, the first of its kind on network sports television; Pro Football Kickoff originated from NFL stadiums around the country with a comprehensive look at all the day's games.

In Week 3 of the 1961 season, CBS televised the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia game (called by Joe Tucker and Red Donley) live on WFBG-Altoona and on tape delay on WIIC-Pittsburgh following Game 4 of the World Series. In Week 9, CBS telecast of the Baltimore-Minnesota game (called by Herb Carneal and Clayton Tonnemaker) was carried locally to Baltimore on WBAL 11. For Week 11, the Green Bay-Detroit game was televised nationally on CBS (subject to blackout), with Ray Scott and Van Patrick sharing play-by-play duties and Tony Canadeo serving as the analyst for full game. The Baltimore-Los Angeles game in Week 13 (with Bob Kelley and Gil Stratton on the call) was broadcast coast-to-coast on CBS (subject to blackout). Meanwhile, the New York-Philadelphia game was apparently also picked up by the Washington network on CBS. Thus, Jim Gibbons and Eddie Gallaher called the game for the Washington market while Chris Schenkel and Johnny Lujack called the game for the New York market. The Redskins in Week 13 were playing against Steelers, which was broadcast on NBC. The Week 14 game between Baltimore and San Francisco was national telecast (subject to blackout). CBS provided special audio feed (consisting of Bob Fouts and Gordie Soltau) for viewers on the CBS San Francisco network. Ray Scott and Gil Stratton called the telecast for the rest of the country. The following day (December 17), the Green Bay-Los Angeles game had a single audio feed for both CBS Green Bay and Los Angeles networks, using the Rams TV voices (Bill Symes and Gil Stratton).

Then-CBS affiliate WISN-TV (channel 12, now an ABC affiliate) in Milwaukee opted not to carry that 1961's annual telecast of The Wizard of Oz, running a Green Bay Packers football game instead. In contrast to the infamous Heidi telecast in 1968, the popularity of The Wizard of Oz as an annual television event at that time was such that the station ran the movie locally at a later date.

The end of each team having its own TV coverage

In 1962, the NFL followed the American Football League's (AFL) suit with its own revenue sharing plan after CBS agreed to telecast all regular season games for an annual fee of US$4.65 million. CBS also acquired the rights to the championship games for 1964 and 1965 for $1.8 million per game, on April 17, 1964.

The Colts and Redskins had some sort of co-op arrangement for 1962. In this instance, for the Week 1 game between Los Angeles-Baltimore game was seen throughout the vast Redskins network that extended all the way to the Florida Keys. Meanwhile, the Washington-Dallas game was seen only on Channel 9 in the DC viewing area. The Colts network in 1962 consisted of about four stations; Baltimore, Salisbury, York, Pennsylvania, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the Redskins network covered DC, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Florida at least. For Week 3, the Detroit-Baltimore game was apparently seen on the full Colts/Redskins network. Meanwhile the St. Louis-Washington game seen only on the Cardinals network.

The New York-Cleveland game on September 16, marked Pat Summerall's debut as an NFL game commentator. Summerall worked alongside Chris Schenkel for the New York market while Ken Coleman and Warren Lahr called the game for the Cleveland market. The Browns network plugged into the Pittsburgh-Washington game in Week 14. It used its own audio with Coleman and Lahr calling the game. Coleman had apparently taken the red-eye across the country after working the first half (Bob Fouts called the second half alongside color commentator Gordy Soltau) of the December 15 national telecast between the Browns and San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco.

CBS executive vice president James T. Aubrey, Jr., who on May 9, 1963, warned the network's affiliates the high cost of rights for professional sports could price them off television, nevertheless in January 1964 agreed to pay $28.2 million to air National Football League games for two years, spanning 17 games each season. In an interview with The New York Times, Aubrey said regarding the package, "We know how much these games mean to the viewing audience, our affiliated stations, and the nation's advertisers". Along with obtaining the aforementioned rights to the NFL Championship Game, in April 1964, he agreed to extend the deal for another year for a total of $31.8 million.[2][3]

The fallout from the JFK assassination

For Week 1 of the 1963 season, the Chicago-Green Bay game was broadcast on a single audio feed (with Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo on commentary) for both networks. One week later, Chicago was again without its normal crew of Red Grange and George Connor. So CBS was left using the Minnesota crew (Herb Carneal and Clayton Tonnemaker) for both networks. The same occurrence happened in Week 3, when the Bears played the Lions and CBS used a single audio with the Detroit crew (Van Patrick and Russ Thomas) for both the Chicago and Detroit networks. The Baltimore crew (Chuck Thompson and Jim Simpson) worked both the CBS Baltimore and Chicago networks in Week 4. Red Grange and George Connor would finally be back in Week 5 (Bears-Rams) with Bob Kelley and Gil Stratton calling the game for the Los Angeles market. Meanwhile, per the Atlanta Journal and some southern newspapers on, the San Francisco-Baltimore game (called by Bob Fouts and Gordy Soltau for the San Francisco market and by Chuck Thompson and Jim Simpson for the Baltimore market) from Week 5 was carried in the southeastern US. The Green Bay-Baltimore game from the following week and the Green-Bay-Chicago game from Week 10 was also carried in the southeastern US.

On November 24, 1963, just two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the NFL played its normal schedule of games. Commissioner Pete Rozelle said about playing the games: "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition."[4] No NFL games were telecast (CBS Chairman Bill Paley ordered no telecasts of any NFL games played during the period of mourning), since on the afternoon of the 22nd, just after the president had been pronounced dead, CBS President Frank Stanton ordered that all regular programming be pre-empted until after Kennedy was buried at his funeral procession. Normal programming, including the NFL, was replaced by non-stop news coverage, broadcast without commercials. Less than one hour prior to kickoff of the games in the Eastern Time Zone, Lee Harvey Oswald, who had been charged with Kennedy's assassination, was himself shot to death by Jack Ruby in the basement of the Dallas city jail as he was being transferred to the Dallas County jail.

For Week 14 of the 1963 season, CBS appeared to have shuffled the deck for three telecasts. With the Steelers-Giants game basically a winner-take-all for the Eastern Conference title, Jack Drees was pulled from the Dallas-St. Louis game. Jim Gibbons likewise, was pulled from the Cleveland-Washington game and both were called to duty to provide a rare somewhat national regular season telecast of the Pittsburgh-New York. As for the Dallas-St. Louis game, Frank Glieber and Jim Morse called the game for both the Dallas and St. Louis network channels (the year prior, Glieber called Cowboys games on CBS with Davey O'Brien), taking their feed instead of the Steelers-Giants game. Meanwhile, while Ken Coleman and Warren Lahr did the game for the Cleveland network affiliates opting for their game instead of Pittsburgh-New York. The Colts/Redskins co-op network carried the Pittsburgh-New York game by default.

Half and half format

In 1964, CBS experimented with a "half-and-half" format for their announcers. The first half of each telecast would be called by the home teams' commentators while the second half would be done by the visitors' commentators (this practice would later be revived decades later by the NFL Network when replaying preseason games that were broadcast by local stations as opposed to a national network). Also in 1964, CBS ditched the concept of using pooled video and split audio feeds. In 1962 and 1963, CBS would provide separate audio for a telecast (for instance, if the Green Bay Packers hosted the Chicago Bears, the telecast would have the same video, Chicago area viewers watching on WBBM-TV would hear Red Grange and George Connor call the action; meanwhile, viewers in Milwaukee and other parts of Wisconsin (Green Bay itself was blacked out) would hear Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo describe the game). Ray Scott was not a fan of the separate audio concept and temporarily left CBS for a job calling a regional slate of college football games for NBC. Ultimately, CBS dumped the four-man crew and resumed the 1962–63 method for the great majority of games in 1965, 1966 and 1967.

CBS' afternoon exhibition telecast of Dallas vs. San Francisco on August 21, 1965 was interrupted by coverage of the Gemini V blastoff, which resulted in a healthy amount of angry phone calls from fans. The game (called by John Roach, Frank Glieber, and Gordy Soltau) was subsequently broadcast on tape-delay basis the following afternoon in a number of cities due to the late start. The August 26 exhibition game between Baltimore-Cleveland game (called by Glieber and Pat Summerall) however was not tape-delayed. it was the nightcap of Art Modell's exhibition doubleheader that ran from 1962-71.

In Week 3 of the 1965 season, the Dallas-St. Louis game (with Frank Glieber and John Roach on the call) was played on a Monday night. The telecast was joined-in-progress as KRLD in Dallas was with CBS's telecast of Pope Paul VI's Mass at Yankee Stadium. KRLD joined the game in progress (at approximately at approximately 9:50 local time) after the Papal Mass ended. The following week's New York-Minnesota contest (called by Jack Whitaker and Frank Gifford) was played on Saturday to avoid conflict with Dodgers-Twins World Series. For Week 4's San Francisco-Green Bay telecast, CBS used a single feed for the San Francisco Green Bay networks. Bob Fouts did play-by-play wtih Tony Canadeo on color commentary for the first half, and then with his normal partner Gordy Soltau for the second half. The Packers' usual play-by-play announcer, Ray Scott was on assignment at the World Series for NBC.

The Baltimore-Minnesota game from Week 9 of the 1965 season, was a national doubleheader telecast (a blackout was in effect in Minneapolis–Saint Paul). Chuck Thompson called the game alongside Jim Morse and Wayne Hardin. The following week's game between Cleveland-Dallas was the doubleheader game. It was seen everywhere but the West Coast (Los Angeles-San Francisco) and Dallas-Ft. Worth area (which was blacked out). Ken Coleman and Waren Lahr, the normal Browns TV crew called the game, with Cowboys play-by-play man Frank Glieber working from CBS Control.

On November 25, 1965 (Thanksgiving Day), CBS featured the first color broadcast of a regular-season NFL game, the traditional Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit. It was only the second time that the network's first color mobile unit had been used (it had been used a month earlier to cover the attempted launch of an Atlas-Agena, which was to have been the rendezvous target for the Gemini 6 space mission). Only a handful of games during the rest of the season were shown in color, along with the NFL Western Conference Playoff, the NFL Championship Game,[5] the Playoff Bowl and the Pro Bowl. In 1966, most of the network's NFL games were broadcast in color, and by 1968, all of the network's NFL telecasts were in color.

CBS went with only two dual audio feeds for Week 13 of the 1965 season. The St. Louis-Dallas game was a Saturday national telecast (blacked out in the Metroplex). The New York-Washington game used a single audio with Jack Whitaker on play-by-play and Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall on analysis. Summerall worked the first half while Gifford worked the second half. Week 13's game between Cleveland and Los Angeles was the national doubleheader game (blacked out in Los Angeles) with Cleveland play-by-play man Ken Coleman working with Los Angeles analyst Don Paul. Meanwhile, Los Angeles play-by-play man Gil Stratton in CBS control. Finally, that week's San Francisco-Chicago contest was called by Bob Fouts and Gordy Soltau for the San Francisco market and by Jack Buck and George Connor for the Chicago market. It was in this game that Gale Sayers scored six touchdowns in the mud.

On December 29, 1965, CBS acquired the rights to the NFL regular season games in 1966 and 1967, with an option to extend the contract through 1968, for $18.8 million per year (in sharp contrast to the $14.1 million per year it paid for the rights in 1964). On February 14, 1966, the rights to the 1966 and 1967 NFL Championship Games (the Ice Bowl) were sold to CBS for $2 million per game. 1967 also marked the last year that CBS had separate commentator crews for each team for about 90% to 95% of their NFL games.

The beginning of the Super Bowl era

For the 1966 season, CBS featured a number of regular season games in color, stepping up from the sole regular season color telecast in 1965, including all postseason games. The Week 1 game between Baltimore and Green Bay was a national Saturday night telecast. Ray Scott and Pat Summerall called the first half, while Chuck Thompson and Summerall worked the second half. This was a black and white telecast. With Summerall working the Green Bay-Baltimore game and with the Cowboys idle, Eddie LeBaron filled in for Summerall on the Cleveland-Washington game (alongside Jim Gibbons) for Redskins viewers. Frank Glieber and Warren Lahr called the game for Browns viewers. With Lowell Perry[6] as analyst for the Pittsburgh network in 1966 alongside Joe Tucker, October 2 (where the Steelers played against the Redskins) was most likely the first time ever an African-American was in the TV booth as on-air talent for a pro football telecast. In Week 5, Pat Summerall was called upon to work Green Bay-San Francisco doubleheader game with Ray Scott. While Scott and feature analyst Summerall worked the telecast for national viewing audience, CBS used local audio for San Francisco network with Bob Fouts and Gordy Soltau. Meanwhile for the Atlanta-Washington game, Jim Gibbons worked with Johnny Sauer for first half while Ed Thilenius worked with Sauer for second half.

Since Baltimore play-by-play man Chuck Thompson was called upon by NBC to help with their World Series coverage, the Baltimore-Chicago game in Week 5 featured Lindsey Nelson working with normal partner George Connor for first half. Nelson then worked with Baltimore analyst Joe Campanella for the second half. Thompson would be back by Week 8, where he called the Baltimore-Los Angeles game as part of a doubleheader alongside Don Paul. The Chicago-St. Louis contest on Halloween night, 1966 was a national Monday night telecast (except in St. Louis). Jack Drees and Frank Gifford called the first half, while Lindsey Nelson and Gifford called the second half. This was almost certainly the first NFL prime time game ever televised in color. The Minnesota-Green Bay game from he following week (a doubleheader game) was however in black and white. Ray Scott and Tony Canadeo worked the first half, while Ray's brother Hal called the second half with Jim Morse as analyst.

In Week 11 of the 1966 season, the Philadelphia-San Francisco game was a regional telecast with a single audio feed. San Francisco play-by-play announcer Bob Fouts worked with Philadelphia analyst Tom Brookshier, while Chick Hearn was called in for CBS Control duty. For that year's Thanksgiving Day game, CBS aired a "day/twilight" doubleheader that were both in color. For the San Francisco-Detroit game, Van Patrick and Frank Gifford called the first half while Bob Fouts and Gifford worked the second half. For the Cleveland-Dallas game, Jack Buck and Pat Summerall were on the call for the first half, while Frank Glieber and Summerall announced the second half. Week 12's Green Bay-Minnesota game was the Sunday doubleheader telecast. Hal Scott called the first half, while Ray Scott called the second half. Tony Canadeo was the analyst for the full game and Jim Morse had CBS Control duties. For Week 12, St. Louis-Dallas was the main doubleheader game with Jack Buck and Eddie LeBaron working the first half and Jack Drees and LeBaron calling the second half.

The Green Bay-Baltimore game from Week 14 of the 1966 season was a Saturday afternoon national telecast. Chuck Thompson and Frank Gifford worked the first half, while Ray Scott and Gifford called the second half. That week's Washington-Dallas game was the Sunday doubleheader game, with Jack Buck and Pat Summerall on the call for the first half and Jim Gibbons and Summerall calling the second half. Eddie LeBaron was in CBS Control. For the following week, the Cleveland-St. Louis game was a Saturday national telecast with Jack Drees and Pat Summerall doing the first half and Frank Glieber and Summerall announcing the second half. Green Bay-Los Angeles was the Sunday doubleheader game with Ray Scott and Ron Paul calling the full telecast and Gil Stratton in CBS Control.

The first AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played on January 15, 1967. Because CBS held the rights to nationally televise NFL games and NBC had the rights to broadcast AFL games, it was decided by the newly merged league to have both of them cover that first game. Ray Scott, Jack Whitaker, Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall called the game for CBS. 39.9 million viewers would watch Bart Starr's performance in the game that earned him the MVP trophy. NBC did have some problems. The network did not return from a commercial break during halftime in time for the start of the second half; therefore, the first kickoff was stopped by the game's officials and was redone once NBC was back on the air. NBC was also forced to broadcast the game over CBS' feed and cameras (CBS received prerogative to use its feed and camera angles since the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was home to the NFL's Rams). In other words, NBC's crew had little to no control over how the game was shot. The next three AFL-NFL World Championship Games, later renamed the Super Bowl, were then divided by the two networks: CBS televised Super Bowls II and IV while NBC covered Super Bowl III.

In Week 4 of the 1967 season, CBS made the shift of Jack Whitaker and Frank Gifford from the New York network to the CBS national telecast of Los Angeles-San Francisco. This had an impact on two other telecasts. Pat Summerall was moved from the Dallas-Washington telecast to act as co-analyst with Norm Van Brocklin (with Don Criqui serving as the play-by-play announcer) and the New Orleans-New York game had a single audio feed. Dallas-Washington also became a single audio telecast with Jack Buck and Jim Gibbons each doing a half of the play-by-play and ex-Cowboys/Redskins quarterback Eddie LeBaron doing the color analyst work for the full game. And though the Los Angeles-San Francisco game featured Whitaker and Gifford for the national network, CBS did provide San Francisco network viewers with an audio feed of the normal 49ers on-air talent of Bob Fouts and Gordy Soltau.

The Baltimore-Washington game from Week 7 of the 1967 season was broadcast with a single audio feed (with Chuck Thompson and Pat Summerall calling the game and Les Carmichael at CBS Control). Meanwhile, that week's Detroit-San Francisco game was a doubleheader telecast. Van Patrick provided play-by-play for full game, while Sonny Grandelius and Grody Soltau provided color commentary. Week 7's Green Bay-St. Louis game was a prime time "coast to coast" telecast that was aired on a Monday. Jack Drees did play-by-play for the first half and Ray Scott provided play-by-play for the second half. Frank Gifford was the analyst for the full game. The Cleveland-Green Bay from Week 9 was the doubleheader for most of the country. Ray Scott and Frank Glieber provided play-by-play with Tom Brookshier as the analyst for the full game. Meanwhile the Philadelphia-Los Angeles game was seen regionally in Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern California, and used a single audio feed (consisting of Stu Nahan and Don Paul). The following week's Washington-Dallas game was national doubleheader game with a single audio feed (Jack Buck and Pat Summerall).

For 1967's Thanksgiving Day games, the Los Angeles-Detroit game featured Van Patrick calling the first half with Gil Stratton on the play-by-play for the second half, and Frank Gifford as the analyst all the way through. Meanwhile, the St. Louis-Dallas game had Jack Buck and Pat Summerall doing the first half, and Jack Drees and Summerall doing the second half. Week 11's Baltimore-San Francisco game was the Sunday doubleheader with the San Francisco crew (Bob Fouts and Gordy Soltau) working the first half and the Baltimore crew (Chuck Thompson and Jim Mutscheller) calling the second half for the national telecast. For the following week, the Philadelphia-Washington game featured the usual Eagles crew of Stu Nahan and Tom Brookshier calling the game for both Philadelphia and Washington networks as a single audio feed. That week's Chicago-San Francisco game was the doubleheader game, with Bob Fouts and Pat Summerall calling the first half and Lindsey Nelson joining Summerall for the second half. Week 13 saw CBS make an analyst swap when Summerall moved to analyze the Cleveland-St. Louis doubleheader game, while Warren Lahr was called on to the work the Washington-Pittsburgh game with Jim Gibbons. For that week's Cleveland-St. Louis game, Jack Drees provided play-by-play for the first half and Frank Glieber called the second half with Summerall as the analyst for the full game. In Week 14 of the 1967 season, CBS simply decided to go with the Dallas crew (Jack Buck and Eddie LeBaron) for the nationally televised Dallas-San Francisco game.

The August 11, 1968 exhibition game between Detroit and Philadelphia was originally scheduled for Mexico City, but was cancelled due to growing student demonstrations on August 8. The following day, the game (which was called by Don Criqui and Frank Gifford) was rescheduled to Philadelphia.

The beginning of the semi-merit system

When CBS decided to abandon its practice of using dedicated announcing crews for particular teams in 1968, the network instituted a semi-merit system in its place, with certain crews (such as Ray Scott and Paul Christman or Jack Buck and Pat Summerall) being assigned to each week's most prominent games regardless of the participating teams.

The teams of Buck/Summerall and Scott/Christman performed double-duty in Week 12 of the 1968 season. Buck and Summerall called the Washington-Dallas game on Thursday and the Los Angeles-Minnesota game on Sunday. Meanwhile, Scott and Christman called the Philadelphia-Detroit game on Thursday and the Chicago-New Orleans game on Sunday. One week later, Frank Gifford joined the team of Chuck Thompson and Lenny Moore for the Baltimore-Green Bay season on Saturday, then the following day called the Cleveland-Washington game with regular partner Jack Whitaker. In Week 14, Don Criqui, Lindsey Nelson, and Jack Drees all switched partners. Criqui teamed with Nelson's regular partner Tom Brookshier on the Lions-Redskins game, Nelson teamed with Drees' regular partner George Connor on the Packers-Bears game, and Drees paired with Criqui's regular partner Johnny Sauer on the Steelers-Saints game. Drees and Sauer would actually pair up in the booth the following season.

On December 22, 1968, CBS interrupted coverage of a Western Conference championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Colts in order to show a broadcast from inside the Apollo 8 spacecraft, headed towards the moon (the first manned space mission to orbit the moon, and a major step towards the lunar landing the following July). The interruption began approximately three minutes before halftime of the game, and lasted 17 minutes. CBS showed highlights of the missed action (in which neither team scored) when the network returned to football coverage; nonetheless, the network received approximately 3,000 complaints after the game.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, CBS used a marching band-like instrumental arrangement of the song "Confidence" (from Leon Carr's score for the 1964 off-Broadway musical The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) as the theme for their NFL broadcasts.

Don Perkins filled in for Frank Gifford during Weeks 3 and 4 (the Bears-Giants game and subsequently, the Steelers-Giants game) of the 1969 season, while Frank Gifford was doing play-by-play fill in for Jack Buck (who himself, filled in for Lindsey Nelson in Week 3's Redskins-49ers game alongside Tom Brookshier and Gil Stratton) and Chuck Thompson, respectively (on the Cardinals-Steelers and Packers-Lions games). Perkins also joined Thompson and Jerry Kramer for their Week 14 game between Minnesota and Atlanta. Andy Musser filled in for Lindsey Nelson in Week 14 (Eagles-49ers alongside Tom Brookshier and John Fitzgerald), while Nelson filled in for Frank Glieber (Redskins-Cowboys alongside Eddie LeBaron and Jim Thacker).

With 1969 being the final season before the AFL–NFL merger, this was also the final season where both leagues would have Thanksgiving doubleheaders. This year, Ray Scott, Paul Christman, and Bruce Roberts called the Vikings-Lions game while Jack Buck, Pat Summerall, and Frank Glieber called the 49ers-Cowboys game. Three days later, Scott and Christman called the Cleveland-Chicago while Buck and Summerall called the Los Angeles-Washington game. Starting in 1970, only two games would be played on Thanksgiving, with the Lions and Cowboys hosting those games, and an AFC team rotating as the visiting team between Detroit and Dallas every year.

Monday night games on CBS

Main article: Monday Night Games Pre-1970

During the early 1960s, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle envisioned the possibility of playing at least one game weekly during prime time for a greater television audience. An early bid by ABC in 1964 to have the league play a weekly game on Friday nights was abandoned, with critics charging that such telecasts would damage the attendance at high school games. Undaunted, Rozelle decided to experiment with the concept of playing on Monday night, scheduling the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions for a game on September 28, 1964. While the game was not televised, it drew a sellout crowd of 59,203 spectators to Tiger Stadium, the largest crowd to watch a professional football game in Detroit up to that point.

Two years later, Rozelle would build on this success as the NFL began a four-year experiment of playing on Monday night, scheduling a total of five Monday night games on CBS from 1966 to 1969 (including 2 in 1968).[7][8][9][10][11] The first prime-time telecast on CBS was on Saturday night, September 10, 1966, with the Baltimore Colts opening the season against the Green Bay Packers at Milwaukee.[12] The first Monday night national telecast was on October 31, 1966, with the St. Louis Cardinals winning at home over the Chicago Bears, 24-17.[13] NBC followed suit in 1968 and 1969 with games involving AFL teams.

During subsequent negotiations on a television contract that would begin in 1970, Rozelle concentrated on signing a weekly Monday night deal with one of the three major networks. After sensing reluctance from both NBC and CBS in disturbing their regular programming schedules, Rozelle spoke with ABC.

Despite the network's status as the lowest-rated network, ABC was also reluctant to enter the risky venture. Only after the independent Hughes Sports Network, an entity bankrolled by reclusive businessman Howard Hughes showed interest, did ABC sign a contract for the scheduled games. Speculation was that had Rozelle signed with Hughes, many ABC affiliates would have pre-empted the network's Monday lineup in favor of the games, severely damaging potential ratings. There was even talk that one or two ABC owned-and-operated stations would have ditched the network feed to carry the games.


When the AFL and the NFL officially merged in 1970, the combined league divided its teams into the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). It was then decided (officially announced on January 26, 1970) that CBS would televise all NFC teams (including playoff games) while NBC would carry games from all AFC teams. For interconference games, CBS would broadcast them if the visiting team was from the NFC and NBC would carry them when the visitors were from the AFC. This was in line with the NFL television blackout rules of the time, meaning that every televised game of a local NFL team would be on the same channel (at the time, home games were banned from local television regardless of sell-out status, while road games are required to be aired in the teams' primary media markets, and select neighboring markets as well, even if it is not the most popular team in the market). The two networks also divided up broadcast rights to the Super Bowl on a yearly rotation.

1970 would be Frank Gifford's final season for CBS before departing for ABC's Monday Night Football. He was at this point, on the #2 team alongside Frank Glieber. Gifford also did play-by-play alongside Frank Clarke in Weeks 4 and 14 (Eagles-Giants and Rams-Giants). Meanwhile, Pat Summerall was moved from calling games with Jack Buck to calling games with Ray Scott after Scott's broadcast partner, Paul Christman, died from a heart attack at the age of 51 in March 1970.

By 1971, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the Prime Time Access Rule, which freed local network affiliates in the top 50 markets (in practice, the entire network) to take a half-hour of prime time from the networks on Mondays through Saturdays and one full hour on Sundays. Because nearly all affiliates found production costs for the FCC's intended goal of increased public affairs programming very high and the ratings (and by association, advertising revenues) low, making it mostly unprofitable, the FCC created an exception for network-authored news and public affairs. After a six-month hiatus in late 1971, CBS would find a prime place for 60 Minutes in a portion of that displaced time, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. (Eastern; 5:00 to 6:00 Central Time) on Sundays, in January 1972.[14] This proved somewhat less than satisfactory, however, because in order to accommodate CBS' telecasts of late afternoon National Football League games, 60 Minutes went on hiatus during the fall from 1972 to 1975 (and the summer of 1972). This took place because football telecasts were protected contractually from interruptions in the wake of the infamous "Heidi Game" incident on NBC in November 1968.

Due largely to CBS' live broadcast of NFL games, as well as other sports events aired by the network that run past their scheduled end time, 60 Minutes sometimes does not start until after 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with the program starting right after the conclusion of game coverage (however, on the West Coast, because the actual end of the live games is much earlier in the afternoon in comparison to the Eastern and Central Time Zones, 60 Minutes is always able to start at its normal 7:00 p.m. Pacific start time, leaving affiliates free to broadcast local newscasts, the CBS Evening News, and other local or syndicated programming leading up to 60 Minutes). The program's success has also led CBS Sports to schedule events leading into 60 Minutes and the rest of the network's primetime lineup, causing (again, except on the West Coast) the pre-emptions of the Sunday editions of the CBS Evening News and affiliates' local newscasts.

In Weeks 10-14 of the 1971 season, Jack Buck and Don Criqui traded broadcast partners. Buck started the season teamed with Alex Hawkins, while Criqui started the season with Irv Cross (who was in his first season at CBS, and would stay for 21 years both in the booth and on The NFL Today). Buck and Cross would call the Giants-Steelers game in Week 10, the Cardinals-Giants game in Week 11, the Eagles-Lions game in Week 12, the Cardinals-Eagles game in Week 13, and the Cardinals-Cowboys in Week 14. Meanwhile Criqui and Hawkins called Vikings-Saints game in Week 10, the Saints-Packers game (in Milwaukee) in Week 11, the Saints-Rams game in Week 12, and the Falcons-Saints game in Week 14.

On January 16, 1972, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 24–3 in Super Bowl VI in New Orleans. The CBS telecast had an estimated household viewership of 27,450,000 homes, the highest-rated single-day telecast ever at the time. Although Tulane Stadium was sold out for the game, unconditional blackout rules in the NFL prohibited the live telecast from being shown in the New Orleans market. This would be the last Super Bowl to be blacked out in the television market in which the game was played. The following year, the NFL allowed Super Bowl VII to be televised live in the host city (Los Angeles) when all tickets were sold. In 1973, the NFL changed its blackout policy to allow games to be broadcast in the home team's market if tickets are sold out 72 hours in advance (all Super Bowls since the second have sold out, as it is the main event on the NFL schedule, and there is high demand for Super Bowl tickets).

Labor disputes

A CBS technicians strike in 1972 disrupted coverage of numerous NFL games. Some games were covered by local TV crews, while some were not seen at all. The scheduled commentators for CBS did not cross the picket lines and instead CBS had to scramble to substitute announcers. Billy Joe Patton and even the head of CBS Sports, Bill MacPhail, were among those that filled in. According to the New York Times, the cut cables were discovered around noon. When CBS emergency crews (made up of supervisors) tried to bring other cables in from two trucks parked outside the stadium, a New York City cop saw a striking CBS technician trying to pry loose a cable that was hooked up to one of the trucks. At this point, the cop attempted to arrest the technician, but two of the latter's cohorts got involved, with a "scuffle" then breaking out. The first technician was arrested for criminal tampering, while the other two got hauled in on a host of other charges. CBS presumably figured it would be impossible to avoid having it happen again (although the strikers reportedly only numbered 25), so they just canceled the broadcast.

Interestingly, the San Francisco-Green Bay game at Milwaukee also had nine TV cables cut, but the picture was only out for eight minutes at the start of the second half. Finally, in the Los Angeles-Atlanta game (called by Jack Drees, George Connor, and Gil Stratton), there were no replays because they had two less cameras in use because of the strike. That Sunday, CBS was also forced to preempt Face the Nation because of the strike, which is notable because it came just two days before the Presidential election.

Also in Week 8 of the 1972 season, the Dallas-San Diego game was seen on a regional basis in Texas. Bill Mercer and Dick Risenhoover were the commentators for this game. No CBS network personnel worked this game, though it appears several CBS affiliates did cover the game. Meanwhile that week's Green Bay-Chicago game was covered by about five or six CBS affiliates in Wisconsin and a Michigan CBS affiliate in the Upper Peninsula. While the game actually was done by WBAY, the channel fed the game to WISN in Milwaukee, who then distributed the game on a closed-circuit feed to the other outlets. Bruce Roberts was not a part of the crew which was otherwise composed of Jack Whitaker and Jim Morse. The Week 8 Minnesota-Pittsburgh game was called by Jack Drees and George Connor with Andy Musser in CBS Control. CBS canceled the telecast for this the Philadelphia-New York game in Week 11. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers had disrupted a couple of earlier telecasts from New York and CBS did not want any more hassle. WPVI (an ABC affiliate) in Philadelphia purchased the rights for this game. Abruptly on the day before the game, WPVI canceled the telecast.

Simulcasts in the San Francisco Bay Area and other experiments

On November 4, 1973, local San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX (now an owned-and-operated station of the network) experimented with a "simulcast" in which the station kept switching back and forth between the network's broadcasts of a San Francisco 49ers game (against the Detroit Lions) and an Oakland Raiders game (against the New York Giants) that were being played at the same time, with frequent cuts to studio host Barry Tompkins. The station received many complaints from viewers, however, and the experiment was not repeated. This resulted in the NFL instituting new rules for markets that had two teams, which basically state that teams televised in two markets must play their games at different times in the day or week, or one of the teams must be on the road, or the teams' games must be on different networks. (For example, an NFL schedule for a given week in markets with two team franchises might look like this: Oakland at Kansas City, 1:00 p.m.; New York Giants at Philadelphia, 1:00 p.m.; San Diego at San Francisco, 4:15 p.m.; and New England at New York Jets, 8:00 p.m.)

1973 would be Ray Scott's final season with CBS, as well as Pat Summerall's last full season as a color commentator. Pat Summerall would end up calling games with four different broadcasters in 1973; as in addition to regular broadcast partner Ray Scott, Summerall would also work with Jack Whitaker, Frank Glieber and Jack Buck. Jack Whitaker would also leave the play-by-play booth after this season. Whitaker would later move to The NFL Today, where he provided featured commentaries until his exit for ABC Sports in 1982. In Week 11, Ray Scott and Pat Summerall would work the Washington-Detroit game on Thanksgiving Day, then on the following Sunday, Scott called the Chicago-Minnesota game with Tom Brookshier, and Summerall joined Jack Whitaker for Atlanta-New York Jets game. Bart Starr joined Scott and Summerall for Super Bowl VIII.

During the October 13, 1974, New Orleans SaintsDenver Broncos game, the broadcasting duo of play-by-play announcer Don Criqui and color commentator Irv Cross was supplemented by the contributions of the first woman ever on an NFL telecast, Jane Chastain. While providing limited commentary, Chastain was used on an irregular basis over the rest of the season. In Week 7, CBS shook up the lineup with Pat Summerall being shuffled from color commentator opposite Jack Buck to play-by-play opposite Tom Brookshier for the Redskins-Cardinals game.

Jack Buck left CBS following the 1974 season (Buck at this point, was on the #2 team with Wayne Walker) to anchor the inaugural season of GrandStand on NBC. Dick Stockton (who as on the #6 team with Pete Retzlaff) would also depart CBS for NBC to call the NFL, as well as the 1975 World Series]. Bart Starr left CBS after 1974 to become head coach of the Green Bay Packers. He called the Thanksgiving game between Washington and Dallas with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier.

The NFL Today debuts

In 1975, CBS debuted The NFL Today, a pre-game show originally hosted by journalist Brent Musburger and former NFL player Irv Cross, with former Miss America Phyllis George serving as one of the reporters. Jimmy Snyder, nicknamed "The Greek", joined the program in 1976. Snyder was dismissed by CBS Sports at the end of the 1987 season, one day after making comments about racial differences among NFL players on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January 1988. Phyllis George was replaced by Jayne Kennedy (who was crowned Miss Ohio USA in 1970) for the 1978 season, only for Kennedy to depart at the end of the following season. George would return in 1980 and stay on through the 1983 season; she was replaced by Charlsie Cantey. In 1979, the first year that the Sports Emmy Awards were awarded to sportscasts, The NFL Today was among the recipients.

Soundtracks, new graphics, and record Super Bowl ratings

By 1975, CBS used several themes (technically, CBS had different opening songs and graphics per crew) to open their broadcasts, ranging from David Shire's "Manhattan Skyline" from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack to "Fly, Robin, Fly" by the Silver Convention. Around this time, Electric Light Orchestra's "Fire on High" was also used as a lead-in to the broadcast.

1975 would serve as Al Michaels' only season with CBS. He was on the #6 team alongside Wayne Walker. Michaels however, did work with Hank Stram in Week 10 (Lions-Chiefs) and Week 12 (Rams-Saints). Sonny Jurgensen would team with Vin Scully (who normally worked with Hank Stram on the #2 team behind Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier) for the NFC Championship Game between the Cowboys and Rams.

CBS' 1976 telecast of Super Bowl X between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys was viewed by an estimated 80 million people, the largest television audience in history at the time. CBS' telecast featured play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall (calling his first Super Bowl in that role) and color commentator Tom Brookshier. Towards the end of the game, Hank Stram took over for Brookshier, who had left the booth to head down to the locker room area to conduct the postgame interviews with the winning team.

Bob Costas would be hired just before the 1976 season to replace Al Michaels, who had joined ABC. Costas' first assignment was the San FranciscoGreen Bay game in Week 1, with Tommy McDonald.

On October 12, 1976, Commissioner Pete Rozelle negotiated contracts with the three television networks to televise all NFL regular-season and postseason games, as well as selected preseason games, for four years beginning with the 1978 season. ABC was awarded yearly rights to 16 Monday night games, four prime time games, the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, and the Hall of Fame Games. CBS received the rights to all NFC regular season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIV and XVI. NBC received the rights to all AFC regular season and postseason games (except those in the ABC package) and to Super Bowls XIII and XV. Industry sources considered it the largest single television package ever negotiated.

In Week 12 of the 1976 season, Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier called the Thanksgiving Day game between St. Louis and Dallas, while on Sunday, Gary Bender joined Brookshier to call the Seattle-New York Giants game. Lindsey Nelson would join Bender's regular partner Johnny Unitas to call the Chicago-Green Bay game.

At the height of the disco fad, from 1977 to 1979, CBS used Meco's "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band," a disco arrangement of John Williams's theme from Star Wars, as a musical theme.

Vin Scully and Alex Hawkins were assigned to call the 1977 NFC Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. Late in that game, Hawkins quipped as Roger Staubach was shown running off the field "You know, Vin, that Roger Staubach runs like a sissy." Scully responded by remarking "You know, Hawk, they tell me you didn't always wear your helmet when you played!" CBS Sports fired Hawkins the day after the game.

On January 15, 1978, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII in front of the largest audience ever to watch a sporting event. CBS scored a 47.2/67 national household rating/share, the highest-rated Super Bowl to date. This game was the first Super Bowl to be played in prime time, was broadcast in the United States by CBS with play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall and color commentator Tom Brookshier. The game kicked off at 5:17 p.m. Central Standard Time. Hosting the coverage was The NFL Today hosts Brent Musburger; Irv Cross; Phyllis George (in the last game of her first stint on The NFL Today before leaving to host the short-lived People the following season). Also contributing were Hank Stram (who had recently been fired by the New Orleans Saints); Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder; Sonny Jurgensen (working on CBS Radio coverage); Gary Bender; Paul Hornung; Nick Buoniconti and Jack Whitaker. Buoniconti and Hornung served as sideline reporters; with Hornung doing postgame interviews in the Broncos' locker room; while Bender covered the trophy presentation in the Cowboy locker room. An interesting aspect was the use of what was called an Electronic Palette graphics system[15] (created by CBS and Ampex) for a painting-like aspect to several visual graphics; such as the game intro, starting lineups and bumpers going into or coming out of a commercial break. CBS would also unveil what was known as the "Action Track"; showing the trail of a football that had been kicked during replays.[16] Also, when the planned lead-in (the Phoenix Open golf tournament) was halted due to poor weather, CBS Sports president Robert Wussler (in New York) and producer Barry Frank (at the Superdome) ended up filling the time period with an impromptu look at how the game would be produced.[17]

1978 was Don Criqui's last season with CBS before departing for NBC. Criqui was at the time, on the #5 team with Sonny Jurgensen and/or Nick Buoniconti. Criqui returned to CBS in 1998 after CBS regained NFL coverage by taking over the American Football Conference package. While calling the Eagles-Giants game at Giants Stadium with Jurgensen on November 19, 1978, Criqui was on hand for a fumble recovery by Philadelphia cornerback Herman Edwards that would become known as the "Miracle at the Meadowlands". With Giants victory all but assured, Criqui had begun to read the end credits for the game's control truck and on-field personnel shortly before the game's final play:

It's Giants football now, third and two. We thank our producer Bob Rowe, our director Jim Silman, and our CBS crew, spotter and statistician John Mara and Tom McHugh here at Giants Stadium. As the clock winds down on the Philadelphia Eagles, a game they thought would project them into a possible wildcard position, it would bring them 7–5 had they won, but a late interception by the Giants will preserve a Giant victory, an upset win as the Giants lead 17–12, we’re inside 30 seconds, the Eagles have no timeouts. [At this point, the snap and fumble take place.] Wait a minute... here's a free fla- I don't believe it! The Eagles pick it up and Herman Edwards runs it in for a touchdown! An incredible development!

After the game, while showing league highlights, CBS replayed the play. They showed the reaction of both coaches, while Brent Musburger famously narrated, "A study in contrast!" According to RJ Bell of Pregame, the point spread of Philadelphia Eagles −2 turned Giants winning bets into pushes.

Also in 1978 year, CBS experimented with three-man booths during the first half of the season. For example, Jim Brown joined Vin Scully and George Allen beginning in Week 3 (Rams-Oilers) and lasted throughout the season.

Pat Summerall and John Madden were paired together for the first time on the telecast of the MinnesotaTampa Bay game on November 25, 1979. Madden substituted for Tom Brookshier, who was unavailable to work the telecast. Madden would also join Summerall and Brookshier for the AtlantaOakland game in Week 7. In Week 15, Summerall worked the DallasPhiladelphia game on Saturday with Brookshier, then the ChicagoGreen Bay game the next day with Sonny Jurgensen.


In 1980, CBS, with a record bid of US$12 million, was awarded the national radio rights to broadcast 26 NFL regular season games, including Monday Night Football, and all ten postseason games through the 1983 season. Starting with the 1980 season, CBS frequently used the beginning guitar riff of Heart's "Crazy on You" for commercial break tosses. Television ratings for season and playoff broadcasts in 1980 were the second-best in NFL history, trailing only the combined ratings of the 1976 season. All three networks posted gains, and NBC's 15.0 rating was its best ever. CBS and ABC had also experienced their best NFL ratings since 1977, with 15.3 and 20.8 ratings, respectively. CBS Radio reported a record audience of 7 million listeners for Monday night and special games.

1980 was Curt Gowdy's last year calling NFL games on a full-time basis. After the season, he left CBS to call college football telecasts for ABC. At this point, Gowdy was usually paired with Hank Stram on the #4 team or Jim Marshall for Week 7 (Vikings-Bengals). This was also Tom Brookshier's last season as a color commentator.

In 1981, ABC and CBS set all-time ratings highs, with ABC finishing the season with a 21.7 rating and CBS with a 17.5 rating; NBC was down slightly to 13.9. On October 18, 1981, Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Montreal Expos, which was supposed to be televised on NBC that Sunday afternoon, was postponed due to snow. The cancellation of that game allowed CBS to achieve record breaking television viewership levels for a regular-season professional football broadcast. It was rated as the most watched afternoon of regular-season NFL football broadcasts on a single network in television history.

In 1981, CBS introduced a new opening theme for the NFL games, a peppy, fanfare-styled theme that remained in use until partway through the 1986 season. The patriotic-style opening title sequence showed the Stars and Stripes of the U.S. flag morphing into the words "National Football League." That same year, CBS Sports standardized its on-screen graphics for all of its telecasts; prior to this, each director in charge for each game used a different look. For the network's coverage of Super Bowl XVI at the end of that season, CBS' theme music eventually became the theme for CBS Sports Saturday/Sunday. The music itself, could be considered a hybrid of the theme used for The NFL Today at the time and the original theme for its college basketball broadcast; CBS would use this particular theme again at least for the NFC Championship Game at the end of the 1982 season.

The beginning of the Summerall-Madden era

Going into the 1981 NFL season, CBS Sports executives decided that John Madden, who had joined the network in 1979 and had worked with Frank Glieber and Gary Bender (as previously mentioned, Pat Summerall and Madden were first teamed on a November 25, 1979 broadcast of a Minnesota VikingsTampa Bay Buccaneers game[18]) in his first two years, was going to be their star NFL color commentator – however, they had trouble figuring out who was going to be his play-by-play partner. At the time CBS had reshuffled their #1 team lineup as Summerall's longtime broadcast partner Tom Brookshier was moved into a play-by-play role (teamed with former Detroit Lions legend Wayne Walker, at the time the sports director for CBS affiliate KPIX), and it was not immediately clear if Summerall was going to keep his position or if #2 play-by-play man Vin Scully,[19] whose contract was nearing expiration, was going to be promoted to take over. CBS elected to give both Summerall and Scully chances to work with Madden. Scully worked with Madden[20] for four games in September while Summerall was busy covering the U.S. Open tennis tournament for CBS. Summerall then worked with Madden for four October games as Scully called Major League Baseball's National League Championship Series and World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network and CBS Radio respectively.

After the eighth week of the NFL season, CBS Sports executives decided that the laconic, baritone-voiced Summerall's style was more in tune with the lively, verbose Madden than the elegant, poetic Scully. As a consolation prize, CBS Sports gave Scully the "B" team assignment and the right to call the NFC Championship Game telecast with Hank Stram. Meanwhile, Pat Summerall called that game on CBS Radio with Jack Buck while John Madden prepared to do the Super Bowl XVI with Summerall in Pontiac, Michigan. Vin Scully reportedly was not happy about the demotion as well as (in his eyes) having his intelligence be insulted (at least, according to CBS Sports producer Terry O'Neil in the book The Game Behind the Game[21]). As a result, Scully bolted to NBC (where he started a seven-year run as their lead Major League Baseball announcer) as soon as his contract with CBS was up.

On January 24, 1982, CBS Sports' broadcast of Super Bowl XVI – in which the San Francisco 49ers (led by quarterback Joe Montana) defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 26–21 – became the highest rated Super Bowl of all time, with a 49.1 rating/73 share. Summerall and Madden called their first Super Bowl together as they went on to become one of the most popular NFL announcing teams ever. During the Super Bowl XVI telecast, the telestrator made its major network debut, which the network introduced as the "CBS Chalkboard" during their sports coverage. Madden utilized the device effectively to diagram football plays on-air to viewers. The telestrator is generally credited with popularizing the use of "telestration" during sports commentary.

In 1982, the NFL signed a five-year contract with the three television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) to televise all NFL regular season and postseason games starting with the 1982 season. By this particular time, CBS decided that instead of using the regular CBS Sports typeface of that period (a variant of Franklin Gothic), that it would instead use the Serifa typeface that began to be used a few months earlier on CBS News programs for their title graphics and lower-thirds.

1982 NFL strike

During the 1982 season, the NFL allowed CBS to rebroadcast Super Bowl XVI during the first Sunday of the strike. CBS also rebroadcast their most recent Super Bowl (XXI) telecast during the 1987 strike. Also during the 1982 strike, CBS' NCAA football contract required the network to show four Division III games; the network initially intended to show those games on Saturday afternoons, with the broadcasts being received only in markets that were interested in carrying them. However, with no NFL games to show on October 3, 1982 (on what would have been Week 5 of the NFL season) due to the strike, CBS decided to show all of its NCAA Division III games on a single Sunday afternoon in front of a mass audience. CBS also used their regular NFL crews (Pat Summerall and John Madden at WittenbergBaldwin–Wallace, Tom Brookshier and Wayne Walker at West GeorgiaMillsaps, Tim Ryan and Johnny Morris at Wisconsin–OshkoshWisconsin–Stout, and Dick Stockton and Roger Staubach at San DiegoOccidental) and aired The NFL Today instead of using their regular college football broadcasters.

CBS originally wanted to air some Division I-A games on Sunday. However, according to Sports Illustrated, fellow NCAA football rights holders ABC and WTBS refused to sign off on the idea. Both networks demanded that CBS pay more in rights fees if it showed additional games. WTBS also objected to CBS moving games from Saturday to Sunday due to fears that such games would steal viewers from the NFLPA All-Star Games that WTBS planned to air. When the red tape made showing big time college football too difficult to pull off, CBS got the idea to run Division III games on that Sunday. It doesn't appear that CBS had plans to air anymore games however since, Division III or not, it would have likely meant having to kick more money to the NCAA per ABC's and WTBS' demands.

On January 8, 1983, CBS began their coverage of the NFL playoffs. As a consequence to the strike, which shortened the regular season from a 16 game schedule to only 9 games, a special 16-team playoff format (which was dubbed the "Super Bowl Tournament") was instituted. Geographical divisional standings were ignored and instead, the top eight teams from each conference were seeded 1–8 based on their regular season records. Ultimately, this resulted in the early round playoff games being regionally televised for the first and to date, only time. Dick Stockton and Roger Staubach called the Lions-Redskins game while Tim Ryan and Johnny Morris called the Cardinals-Packers game, both at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The next day, Tom Brookshier and Wayne Walker called the Falcons-Vikings game while Pat Summerall and John Madden called the Buccaneers-Cowboys game, both at 4 p.m. ET.

Announcer shifts

Tom Brookshier was suspended for the final week of the 1983 season after commenting during a promo for a NCAA basketball game (during Week 15's Saints-Eagles game alongside Charlie Waters) between the Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina State Wolfpack that the Louisville starting five (which happened to be all black) "had a collective IQ of about 40". Brookshier eventually apologized and was reinstated for the 1984 NFL season.

In 1984, CBS' #6 team of Tim Ryan and Johnny Morris called almost all of the Bears games this season. Morris was the sports director for Chicago's CBS affiliate WBBM-TV.

In May 1985, shortly after calling after working the 17th hole at the Masters and calling Game 1 of the NBA Playoff series between Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, play-by-play announcer Frank Glieber died of a heart attack. Tom Brookshier, who previously served as Summerall's color commentator prior to Madden,[22] replaced Glieber in the NFL on CBS broadcast booth.

For the 1985 season, the NFL showed a ratings increase on all three networks for the season, with viewership of CBS' telecasts increasing by 10%, NBC telecasts by 4%, and ABC telecasts by 16%. This season saw the designated #2 team of Jack Buck and Hank Stram call mostly Cardinals games on CBS. Dick Vermeil teamed up with Buck and Stram for the Cowboys-Rams playoff game and the Week 16 Redskins-Cardinals game.

Starting during the 1986 season and continuing until CBS lost the NFC coverage in 1993, Verne Lundquist occasionally filled in for Pat Summerall while Summerall was assigned to calling the US Open tennis tournament. 1986 would mark Wayne Walker's final season as part of the CBS broadcast team (Walker remained as sports director on KPIX in San Francisco until 1994 and would work as a color commentator on San Francisco 49ers radio broadcasts until 1998). For this season, Walker would move from color commentator to play-by-play, where he was paired with Johnny Morris, Dan Jiggetts, Terry Bradshaw in Week 12 (Lions-Buccaneers), or Tom Brookshier in Week 15 (Packers-Buccaneers). 1986 also marked Gary Bender and Dan Dierdorf's last season at CBS before moving to ABC. Dierdorf would return to CBS in 1999. This was also Tom Brookshier's last season calling games for CBS. Bender at this point, was on the #3 team alongside Hank Stram while Dierdorf was on the #2 team alongside Dick Stockton.

Beginning in Week 4 of the 1986 season, CBS adapted a theme for its game broadcast, an intense, kinetic, synthesizer-laced theme that has affectionately been referred to as "Pots and Pans" (because of the background notes that often resembled the banging of those particular cooking objects). In 1989, the "Pots and Pans" theme was revamped to give it a more smooth, electronic style. This theme was also known for integrating the play-by-play announcer's voice-over introduction into the theme, it integrated three voice-over segments, one for the visiting team, home team and game storyline to set the latter element into the broadcast; this practice was common with CBS Sports' themes of the 1980s.

CBS starts broadcasting in stereo

CBS' broadcast of Super Bowl XXI (at the end of the 1986 season) was the first NFL game to be broadcast in Dolby Surround sound and in stereo. The postgame show was supposed to feature the song "One Shining Moment", but due to the extended length of the postgame interviews, CBS did not play it. The lyrics to the song, which is now played at the end of the network's NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship coverage, were ultimately changed from "the ball is kicked" to "the ball is tipped". CBS also debuted the theme music (composed by Lloyd Landesman) that ultimately became the theme used for CBS' college football coverage (which was also the case for the theme CBS used from 1984 to 1986 after debuting it for Super Bowl XVIII) for the 1987 season (this theme was actually loosely based on the Pots and Pans theme).

At the NFL's annual meeting in Maui, Hawaii on March 15, 1987, Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Broadcast Committee Chairman Art Modell announced new three-year television contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC, effective with the 1987 season. Beginning in 1987, CBS started broadcasting NFL games in stereo. On December 8, 1987, Cathy Barreto became the first woman to direct an NFL game at the network television level for the Minnesota VikingsDetroit Lions telecast. On April 18, 1989, the NFL and CBS Radio jointly announced agreement extending CBS' radio broadcast rights to an annual 40-game package through the 1994 season.

Following the 1987 season, Joe Theismann, who was on the #2 team with Tim Ryan or Jack Buck moved to ESPN. Meanwhile, Dick Vermeil, who was on the #7 team with Verne Lundquist, doubled as a panelist for The NFL Today that season. The following season, Vermeil would move to ABC to cover college football. Like Dick Vermeil a year earlier, Will McDonough would also serve as an occasional NFL Today panelist in 1988. McDonough was otherwise on the #8 team alongside Steve Zabriskie (Weeks 3, 7, 13).

Hank Stram missed Weeks 2-6 of the 1988 season after collapsing en route to the Week 2 game between the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, and would be replaced in the booth by Dan Jiggetts, John Dockery, and Terry Bradshaw. The following year would be Terry Bradshaw's last year as a game commentator for CBS. The following season, he would be promoted to a co-hosting role alongside Greg Gumbel on The NFL Today. Gumbel and Bradshaw replaced Brent Musburger and Irv Cross respectively.

On New Year's Eve, 1988, CBS was at Chicago's Soldier Field for a playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Bears. During the 2nd quarter, a dense fog rolled over, cutting visibility to about 15–20 yards for the rest of the game. TV and radio announcers, and the fans in the stadium had trouble seeing what was happening on the field. A CBS helicopter providing aerial coverage for the game was forced to land. Terry Bradshaw, who was working the game with Verne Lundquist, later said he was more frustrated than at any time when he was a player.

For the Thanksgiving game broadcasts on November 23, 1989, John Madden awarded the first "Turkey Leg Award", for the annual game's most valuable player. Reggie White of the Philadelphia Eagles was the first recipient of the honor for his part in what would become known as Bounty Bowl I. The gesture was seen mostly as a humorous gimmick relating to Madden's famous multi-legged turkeys served on Thanksgiving. Since then, however, the award has gained subtle notoriety, and currently, each year an MVP has been chosen for both the CBS and Fox games. When CBS returned to the NFL in 1998, the network introduced their own award, the "All-Iron Award."


For CBS' coverage of Super Bowl XXIV at the end of the 1989 season, CBS introduced a brand new theme[23] for its NFL broadcasts, using a considerably more traditional and standard (but still peppy and bombastic) theme than the one used the previous four seasons; the theme was used until the 1991 NFC Championship Game.

On March 12, 1990, at the NFL's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, the league ratified new four-year television agreements with existing partners ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as newly struck cable agreements with ESPN and TNT, to take effect with the 19901993 seasons. The contracts involving the four networks totaled US$3.6 billion, the largest in television history.

On September 9, 1990, The NFL Today overhauled its talent lineup, consisting of Greg Gumbel, Terry Bradshaw, Pat O'Brien and Lesley Visser. Gumbel and Bradshaw replaced Brent Musburger, who was fired by CBS on April 1, 1990, and Irv Cross, who was demoted to the position of game analyst alongside Tim Ryan on play-by-play. During the 1990 season, Pat Summerall was hospitalized after vomiting on a plane during a flight after a BearsRedskins game, and was out for a considerable amount of time. While Verne Lundquist replaced Summerall on games with Madden, Jack Buck (who was at CBS during the time as the network's lead Major League Baseball announcer) was added as a regular NFL broadcaster to fill-in. Following this season, Tim Brant, who was on the #8 team with Jim Nantz would join ABC as a college football analyst.

Merlin Olsen retired from broadcasting after the 1991 season after working with Dick Stockton for two years following his departure from NBC. 1991 was also Brad Nessler's final season at CBS until 2016. Nessler was teamed with Dan Fouts with the exception of Week 12 (Buccaneers-Falcons), when Nessler was paired with Dan Jiggetts, Week 15 (Falcons-Rams), when Nessler teamed with Merlin Olsen, and Week 16 (Rams-Vikings), when Nessler worked with Hank Stram.

At Super Bowl XXVI, Lesley Visser became the first female sportscaster to preside over the Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation ceremony. The network's telecast of Super Bowl XXVI on January 26, 1992 was seen by more than 123 million viewers nationally, second only to the 127 million that viewed Super Bowl XX. The ongoing 1990 television contract gave CBS rights to Super Bowl XXVI instead of Super Bowl XXVII, which was in the network's rotation of the champion game. The NFL swapped the years in which CBS and NBC held rights to the Super Bowl in an effort to give CBS enough lead-in programming for the upcoming 1992 Winter Olympics that were set to begin two weeks later. For this game, CBS debuted a new network-wide red, white and blue graphics package as well as a new theme song (composed by Frankie Vinci) for its NFL coverage that replaced the one CBS debuted for their coverage of Super Bowl XXIV two years earlier. The package lasted until the end of 1995, after which CBS discarded it in favor of an orange and yellow color scheme for its sports graphics. The new music lasted until CBS lost the NFL rights at the end of the 1993 season, but continued to be used by CBS Radio until 2002. Several remixed versions of the 1993 theme were used upon the return of the NFL to CBS until the end of the 2002 season, when CBS replaced its entire NFL music package with one composed by E.S. Posthumus.

In September 1993, The NFL Today celebrated its 19th season as a half-hour pre-game show. It held the distinction of being the highest-rated program in its time slot for 18 years, longer than any other program on television.

Verne Lundquist and Dan Fouts were the #2 team for much of the 1993 season. However, Jim Nantz and Randy Cross called the second round playoff game for CBS (Dallas vs. Green Bay) not called by Pat Summerall and John Madden. Meanwhile, Tim Ryan and Matt Millen were the #3 team for much of the 1993 season.

Losing the NFL to Fox (1994–1997)

See also: 1994–1996 United States broadcast TV realignment and Repercussions of the 1994–1996 United States broadcast TV realignment

The steady downturn in programming fortunes that CBS experienced during the tenure of network president Laurence Tisch (brother of New York Giants co-owner Bob Tisch) would precipitate in 1993. As the television contracts for both NFL conferences and for the Sunday and Monday prime time football packages came up for renewal, the Fox Broadcasting Company – which made a failed attempt at acquiring the Monday Night Football package six years earlier – made an aggressive move to acquire the league television rights. Knowing that it would likely need to bid considerably more than the incumbent networks to acquire a piece of the package, Fox placed a then-record bid of US$1.58 billion for the four-year contract for the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference, significantly exceeding CBS' bid of $290 million for each year of the contract. The NFC was considered the more desirable conference at the time due to its presence in most of the largest U.S. markets, such as New York City, Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia.

The NFL accepted Fox's bid on December 18, 1993, giving that network rights to televise NFC regular season and playoff games effective with the 1994 season, as well as the exclusive U.S. television rights to Super Bowl XXXI (held in 1997) under the initial contract. This stripped CBS of National Football League telecasts following the 1993 season after 38 years, resulting in CBS not broadcasting any NFL games for the next four years.[24][25] The Fox network had only debuted seven years earlier and did not have an existing sports division; however, it would establish its own sports division and began building its own coverage by hiring many former CBS personalities (such as Pat Summerall, John Madden, James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Dick Stockton and Matt Millen), management and production personnel.[26]

CBS televised its last game as the rights holder of the National Football Conference package on January 23, 1994 when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, 38–21. Before signing off one last time, CBS aired a photo montage of their most memorable moments during their 38 years of covering the NFL set to the song "After the Sunrise" by Yanni.

The acquisition of NFL rights by Fox made that network a major player in American television by giving it many new viewers (and affiliates) and a platform to advertise its other programs. In the meantime, CBS lost several affiliates, and ratings for its other programming languished. On May 23, 1994, News Corporation, then parent of Fox, struck an alliance with New World Communications, by now a key ownership group with several VHF affiliates of the three established major networks – most of which were CBS affiliates, almost all of which were located in NFC markets – and wary of a CBS without football. Through the deal, in which Fox purchased a 20% interest in New World, the company signed an agreement to affiliate the majority of its stations (including those that New World was in the process of acquiring from Argyle Communications and Citicasters) with Fox; twelve of New World's stations began switching their affiliations to Fox beginning in September 1994 and continuing through September 1996.[27][28]

To this day, CBS admits that it has never fully recovered from the loss of key affiliates through the New World-Fox deal. It took a particularly severe hit in Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee, as the network found itself on the verge of having to import the signals of nearby affiliates via cable and satellite after being turned down for affiliation deals by other major network stations in those markets. Ultimately, the network was relegated to UHF stations with marginal signals in certain areas within their markets (because of satellite television, the NFL Sunday Ticket in local markets, and rules of the time, satellite subscribers were required to use antennas to pick up local affiliates). CBS purchased one of these stations, WWJ-TV (channel 62), only days before its longtime Detroit affiliate, WJBK (channel 2), was set to switch to Fox. The ratings impact in these three markets was significant; the former CBS affiliates were all considered to be ratings contenders, especially during the NFL season. With CBS ending up on UHF stations that had virtually no significant history as a former Fox or first-tier independent station (or former Big Three affiliate for that matter), ratings for CBS programming in these markets declined significantly. In Milwaukee, for instance, WITI (channel 6)'s switch from CBS to Fox resulted in several of CBS' remaining sports properties, most notably the Daytona 500, not being available to cable subscribers for much of 1995 until Weigel Broadcasting signed carriage agreements with providers to add new CBS station WDJT-TV (channel 58).

CBS apparently underestimated the value of its rights with respect to its advertising revenues and to its promotional opportunities for other network programs.[26] The vast resources of Fox founder Rupert Murdoch allowed that network to grow quickly, primarily to the detriment of CBS. The loss of the NFL came in part because CBS Sports suddenly went into cost-cutting mode in the wake of its money-bleeding, $1 billion deal with Major League Baseball (1990–1993).[25][29] The network had already developed a stodgy and overly budgeted image under Laurence Tisch, who had become chief executive officer of CBS in 1985. Tisch was already notorious for having made deep cuts at the network's news division and for selling off major portions of the company (such as the 1988 sale of its Columbia Records division to Sony). When CBS lost the NFL to Fox, the "Tiffany Network" struggled to compete in the ratings with a slate of programming whose audiences skewed older than programs broadcast by the other networks, even though the network still finished ahead of Fox, whose programming at the time of the NFL deal was almost exclusively limited to primetime and children's programming. One of the few bright spots in terms of ratings and audience demographics for CBS in the Tisch era, the Late Show with David Letterman (which often dominated The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in its first two years) saw its ratings decline in large part due to the affiliation switches, at times even finishing third behind Nightline on ABC.[30]

Attempts at replacement programming

CBS made a bid on National Hockey League rights in the wake of the loss of the NFL contract, but in a stunning blow to CBS, Fox outbid them for those rights as well.[31] The replacement programming CBS ended up airing on Sunday afternoons in the fall of 1994 and 1995 involved mostly a package of encore made-for-TV movies, which were targeted towards women in an attempt to counterprogram NBC and Fox. However, they made very little headway (with some affiliates forgoing the movie package altogether and instead airing either, local and/or religious programs and infomercials) and by 1996, CBS picked up additional NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck races in order to compete in some form.

One of the often cited reasons for the Canadian Football League's failed American experiment, and part of the reason why the CFL fell behind the NFL in terms of quality players, was the state of the league's American television contract. The league, which had held a U.S. network television contract in the 1950s and again briefly in 1982, was then being carried on ESPN2, at the time a nascent channel devoted to extreme sports that was not nearly as widely available as its parent network and only carried a limited number of the league's games (with ESPN itself airing some games to fill in airtime available due to the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, as well as the Grey Cup on tape delay). It was not until after the 1995 season that the CFL, mainly through the action of its American franchises, approached CBS to see if it could get coverage.[32] However, by the time negotiations started, the CFL had decided to fold or relocate all of its American franchises, and the negotiations with CBS accordingly fell through. It would not be until several years later that the CFL reached a television contract in the United States, on a much smaller network (America One). The following year, in 1996, CBS added college football games featuring the Southeastern and Big East conferences on Saturday afternoons. It was the beginning of a rebuilding process that would eventually lead to the return of the NFL to the network.

The NFL returns

Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports, said that "Four years later the negative impact was so severe that CBS went to the NFL and said, 'Name your price and we'll pay whatever to get a package' ... We lost affiliates, ratings, the male audience and a lot of sports sponsorships".[33] In November 1996, Sean McManus (son of ABC Sports broadcast legend Jim McKay and protegé of longtime ABC Sports executive Roone Arledge) was named President of CBS Sports, and would lead CBS' efforts in re-acquiring broadcast rights to the NFL. On January 12, 1998, CBS agreed to a contract with the NFL to broadcast American Football Conference games effective with the 1998 season (taking over the rights from NBC), paying $4 billion over eight years ($500 million per season).[34] In the last year NBC had rights to the AFC, the Denver Broncos, an original AFL team, defeated the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, which aired on NBC and ended a 13-year drought against the NFC in the Super Bowl. Around the time CBS took over the rights to the AFC saw the trend of the 1980s and 1990s reverse, in that the AFC became the dominant conference over the NFC (1998 also saw the Broncos win the Super Bowl). The New England Patriots dynasty in the 2000s in the only AFC-only top-ten market also contributed to the ratings surge. In fact, the primary stations for both the Broncos and Patriots are the same – KCNC-TV in Denver, and WBZ-TV in Boston, prior to the two stations switching to CBS in 1995 through the network's affiliation deal with Westinghouse – as when NBC carried the AFC (KUSA and WHDH-TV (which is now an independent station) carried those teams' games from 1995 to 1998).

In addition, the current AFC deal also saw CBS indirectly acquire rights to air most games played by the Pittsburgh Steelers, which air locally on KDKA-TV (a longtime CBS affiliate, which became a CBS O&O after parent company Westinghouse Electric Corporation bought CBS in late 1995 and has long been one of CBS's strongest stations) and often get the highest television ratings for an NFL franchise due to the team's rabid fanbase on a national level. Coincidentally, before the AFL–NFL merger (when the Steelers went to the AFC voluntarily to balance out the number of teams between conferences), Steelers road games had aired on KDKA-TV as part of the network's deal to air NFL games, while league rules at the time mandated that home games could not be televised at all during this period, even if they did sell out tickets.

After acquiring the new package, CBS Sports then named former NFL Today host Greg Gumbel, as their lead play-by-play announcer (Gumbel had moved to NBC Sports, where he worked from 1994 to 1998 after CBS lost the NFL to Fox). Phil Simms (who at the time, was at NBC as part of the lead announcing team alongside Dick Enberg and Paul Maguire) was hired as the lead color commentator. On September 6, 1998, after 1,687 days since the last broadcast of The NFL Today, host Jim Nantz welcomed back viewers to CBS for its coverage of the National Football League.

Given the challenge of making its coverage of the American Football Conference different from that of NBC, CBS passed over longtime NBC veterans Charlie Jones and Bob Trumpy in favor of newcomers such as Ian Eagle and Steve Tasker. According to CBS Sports executive producer Terry Ewert, "We wanted to forge our own way and go in a different direction. We wanted to make decisions on a new way of looking at things." In one stark difference from NBC, CBS used a score and clock graphic for its NFL games that was constant during the game broadcasts outside of break tosses, a la the FoxBox. CBS' contribution was dubbed the EyeBox.

"When CBS got the NFL back (in 1997), everything picked up again", Pilson said.[33] On November 8, 1998, CBS televised the first NFL game to be broadcast in high-definition, between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills at Giants Stadium. It was also the first time two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks started against each other in the NFL (Vinny Testaverde for the Jets and Doug Flutie for the Bills).


In the 2000 season, Todd Blackledge, CBS' top college football analyst, filled in for Sam Wyche on the Seattle-Miami Week 1 telecast alongside Kevin Harlan as Wyche was recovering from vocal cord surgery. Wyche did return to call the Miami-Minnesota broadcast in Week 2, but his voice had gotten worse and Beasley Reece (originally the sideline reporter for this game) was brought in 10 minutes into the telecast to assist in the booth. Randy Cross filled in for three games before Wyche was permanently replaced by Daryl Johnston. Wyche would not work another game until Week 1 of the 2001 season (the New England-Cincinnati game alongside Gus Johnson and Brent Jones) before leaving CBS after Week 2. Wyche's final telecast for CBS was the Tennessee-Jacksonville game.

Week 2 of the 2000 season, Todd Blackledge worked the Oakland-Indianapolis with Greg Gumbel as he subbed for Phil Simms, who had an emergency appendectomy. Dick Enberg would make his official NFL on CBS debut in Week 3 (Buffalo-New York Jets), due to his work hosting the US Open. Verne Lundquist joined Dan Dierdorf in Weeks 1 and 2. Various announcers would fill in for Enberg during the opening weekend of the NFL season until Enberg's departure after the 2009 season. During Week 12 of the 2001 season, in addition to calling the San Diego-Philadelphia game, Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf also announced that year's Army–Navy Game; both games were played at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

On January 28, 2001, CBS Sports, Core Digital and Princeton Video Image introduced state-of-the-art, three-dimensional replay technology called "EyeVision" for its coverage of Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa (at Raymond James Stadium). The game, CBS Sports' first Super Bowl broadcast since 1992, drew 131.2 million viewers for the Baltimore Ravens win over the New York Giants. As a result, Super Bowl XXXV was the most watched television program that year. Play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel became the first African-American announcer to call a major sports championship; he was joined in the broadcast booth with Phil Simms. Both of the Ravens' Super Bowl championships to date have been on CBS; the CBS-owned station in Baltimore, WJZ-TV, had been, as an ABC affiliate, one of the strongest TV stations for Monday Night Football for most of the 1980s and early 1990s, due to Baltimore's previous NFL team, the Colts' move to Indianapolis.

The 2001–02 NFL playoffs marked the first time that the league scheduled prime time playoff games for the first two rounds, in an attempt to attract more viewers. Saturday wild card and divisional playoff games were moved from 12:30 and 4 p.m. Eastern Time to 4:30 and 8 p.m., respectively. As a result, the league abandoned its practice of scheduling playoff games held mainly in colder, northern regions for daylight hours only; any stadium, regardless of evening January temperatures, could host prime time playoff games.

Jim Nantz and Greg Gumbel swap roles

In 2004, Jim Nantz and Greg Gumbel swapped roles on the network's NFL broadcasts.[35] Nantz took Gumbel's place as the lead play-by-play announcer while Gumbel took Nantz's spot as the host of The NFL Today. Also in 2004, Armen Keteyian and Bonnie Bernstein traded duties as the sideline reporter for the for the #1 and #2 teams. Therefore, Bernstein beginning in 2004, worked with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms while Keteyian worked with Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf. Following the 2005 season, CBS discontinued the use of sideline reporters in its regular season NFL coverage until 2014.

In Week 1, the Tennessee-Miami game was moved a day earlier due to the threat of Hurricane Ivan. As per Dick Enberg's US Open duties, he was filled in on play-by-play by Dan Dierdorf, while Todd Blackledge provided color commentary. Two weeks later, Miami's game against Pittsburgh was pushed to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time because of Hurricane Jeanne. The game aired on the CBS and UPN affiliates in both Pittsburgh and Miami.

Beginning in the 2006 season, James Brown (returning to CBS from Fox) replaced Greg Gumbel as the host of The NFL Today. Gumbel returned to play-by-play duties, replacing Dick Enberg as the #2 play-by-play man. As compensation for being demoted, CBS allowed Enberg to call Thursday Night Football games on Westwood One Radio. Greg Gumbel wound up calling the Pro Bowl (alongside Dan Dierdorf) instead of Jim Nantz.

The next group of broadcast contracts, which began with the 2006–07 season, resulted in a size-able increase in total rights fees. Both Fox and CBS renewed their Sunday afternoon broadcast packages through 2011, in both cases with modest increases. On February 6, 2006, CBS Sports announced the return of James Brown, who left CBS eleven years earlier to become studio host of Fox NFL Sunday, to the network as the host of The NFL Today. As previously mentioned, Greg Gumbel moved back to play-by-play, teaming with Dan Dierdorf. CBS decided to not feature sideline reports for the 2006 regular season. However, the network did use Lesley Visser, Sam Ryan, Solomon Wilcots and Steve Tasker to report from the sidelines and around the stadium for its telecast of Super Bowl XLI.

In the 2006 season, CBS' coverage of the AFC Championship Game earned a 28.1 rating, which topped the season premiere of American Idol on Fox. Its Super Bowl XLI broadcast drew the third largest television audience in history, finishing behind only its broadcast of the M*A*S*H finale ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen") in 1983 and NBC's broadcast of Super Bowl XXX (Dallas and Pittsburgh) from 1996. Super Bowl XLI was the second most watched Super Bowl broadcast of all-time, averaging 93.1 million viewers.[36]

HDTV coverage

As late as 2006, CBS aired only three of its NFL games in high-definition each week, the same number of games it had aired for the past few seasons. The other networks that held rights to broadcast NFL games – NBC, NFL Network and ESPN – broadcast all of their games in high definition, and Fox broadcast up to six in HD. Because of this, some fans accused CBS of being "cheap."[37] Beginning with the 2007 season, CBS began airing five of the Sunday games in high definition television on doubleheader weeks, and six on singleheader weeks.[38][39]

Former CBS Sports Executive Vice President Tony Petitti (who left CBS in April 2008 to become the head of the newly-established MLB Network) claimed the network would probably air all of its NFL games in high definition by 2009. When asked about the move, Petitti commented that CBS was focused on building a new studio for The NFL Today pre-game show. However, another CBS executive had previously indicated[40] that, because CBS was an "early adopter" with its first HD game in 1998, it is already "at capacity" and would have to replace newly purchased equipment in its network center with even more expensive equipment. However, CBS did carry its entire slate of games in 2009 in HD, though a few non-essential camera positions for some games (mainly used only in analysis situations) continued to be shot in 4:3 SD.

Beginning with the 2013 season, CBS Sports switched to a 16:9 full widescreen presentation, which began requiring the use of the #10 Active Format Description tag to present the games in a letterboxed widescreen format for viewers watching on cable television through 4:3 television sets.

CBS introduces the "CBS Eye-lert"

For the 2007 season, CBS announced the advent of "CBS Eye-lert,"[41] a service that allows viewers to be notified via e-mail and text message when the start time of a program will be delayed. The "Eye-lert" was eventually extended on-air to a banner graphic that appears during the prime time lineup within sports broadcasts and segments of delayed regularly scheduled evening programs.

During Week 13 of the 2007 regular season, Craig Bolerjack filled in for Greg Gumbel for the Cleveland Browns vs. Arizona Cardinals match-up. Gumbel was in the studios covering for an ill James Brown. Gumbel would return for Week 14 (San Diego @ Tennessee). After this season, Craig Bolerjack would not call another NFL game until Week 4 of the 2011 season, by which time he had left CBS for Fox, when he filled in for Dick Stockton on the Atlanta FalconsSeattle Seahawks match-up.

During Week 7 of the 2008 season, a power failure at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium caused problems leading to the regular broadcast team of Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf being unable to call portions of the game (the Bills vs. San Diego). Video was still available, and so James Brown called portions of the game from the studio, with the rest of the NFL Today team providing color commentary.

During Week 1 of the 2009 regular season, Gus Johnson filled in for Dick Enberg, who was calling the US Open, on the Broncos-Bengals game. During Week 16, Dave Ryan filled in for Gus Johnson. Also Week 16, Joe Micheletti called the Chiefs-Bengals game with Dave Ryan and Steve Tasker. As previously mentioned, following the 2009 season, Dick Enberg left CBS Sports for a television broadcasting job with the San Diego Padres.


With an average U.S. audience of 106.5 million viewers, Super Bowl XLIV on CBS was, at the time, the most-watched Super Bowl telecast in the championship game's history as well as the most-watched program of any kind in American television history, beating the record previously set 27 years earlier by the final episode of M*A*S*H, which was watched by 105.97 million viewers.[42] The game telecast drew an overnight national Nielsen rating of 46.4 with a 68 share, the highest for a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XX in 1986; and drew a 56.3 rating in New Orleans and a 54.2 rating in Indianapolis, first and fourth respectively among local markets.[43] Super Bowl XLV surpassed the record a year later and was itself topped by Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.[44][45]

During Week 1 of the 2010 regular season, Spero Dedes filled in for Bill Macatee on the Cleveland-Tampa Bay game alongside Rich Gannon. During Week 5, Dedes filled in for an ill Greg Gumbel for the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts match-up alongside Dan Dierdorf. During Week 13, Dan Fouts filled in for Phil Simms on the Oakland-San Diego game, after Simms underwent back surgery earlier that week. Also Week 13, Rich Gannon filled in for Dan Fouts on the Denver-Houston alongside Ian Eagle while Fouts was filling in for Simms.

On November 28, 2010, CBS broadcast its 5,000th NFL game.[46] The game in question involved the Miami Dolphins visiting the Oakland Raiders, with Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker calling play-by-play. Following the 2010 NFL season, Gus Johnson left CBS Sports and joined Fox Sports. Marv Albert replaced him and resumed calling NFL games on television for the first time in 14 years. Albert had last called NFL games for NBC in 1997 before being fired due to sexual assault charges being filed against him.

The pairing team of Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker did not call any games in Week 1, 6-7, 9 in 2011. The following year, Macatee and Tasker did not call any games in Weeks 1, 7, 9, 11, 15. During Week 4 of the 2011 season, Andrew Catalon, the weekend sports anchor at WNYT-TV in Albany, filled in for Bill Macatee on the Bills-Bengals game. Macatee was calling the Asian Amateur golf championship. Don Criqui was calling a football game for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Spero Dedes was calling a college football game on the CBS Sports Network and neither one of those two were available to fill in for Macatee.

On December 14, 2011, the NFL, along with Fox, NBC and CBS, announced a nine-year extension of the league's rights deal with all three networks to the end of the 2022 season. The extended contract includes the continued rotation of the Super Bowl yearly among the three networks, meaning CBS would air Super Bowls XLVII (2013), 50 (2016), LIII (2019), and LVI (2022).[47]

During Week 16 of the 2011 regular season, Spero Dedes filled in for Marv Albert on the Browns-Ravens game alongside Rich Gannon. Albert calling the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks match-up for TNT the next day.

CBS broadcasts via a secondary audio program and the internet

For the 2012 NFL season, CBS began providing Spanish play-by-play commentary of all game broadcasts via a secondary audio program feed.[48] Also in 2012, to further prevent issues surrounding late games from delaying prime-time programming on the east coast (also influenced by other recent changes slowing the pace of games, such as video reviews and the kickoff for late games being moved from 4:15 to 4:25 p.m. Eastern Time), CBS began to move the start of its prime-time schedule to 7:30 p.m. on weeks that the network carries a 4:25 p.m. game.[49]

The pairing team of Don Criqui and Randy Cross did not call any games from Weeks 1 through 15 of the 2012 season. They called the Buffalo BillsMiami Dolphins game in Week 16 and the Jacksonville JaguarsTennessee Titans game in Week 17. During Week 8 of the regular season, Spero Dedes filled in for Marv Albert on the Chargers-Ravens game. Albert called the Boston Celtics/Miami Heat NBA match-up on TNT with Steve Kerr two days after the NFL. During Week 10, Dedes filled in for Bill Macatee on the Titans-Dolphins game. Steve Tasker joined Jim Nantz and Phil Simms for every postseason game except the Wild Card Round, which he handled on Dial Global with Tom McCarthy and Tony Boselli on the Bengals-Texans match-up. Meanwhile, Solomon Wilcots joined Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf for the Ravens–Broncos divisional match-up. Wilcots would also Tasker as a sideline reporter for the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLVII.

Super Bowl XLVII was broadcast for free on the internet on the host network's website, in this case CBS charged an average of $4 million for a 30-second commercial during the game, the highest rate for any Super Bowl.[50] According to Nielsen, Super Bowl XLVII was watched by an estimated average total audience of 108.69 million U.S. viewers, with a record 164.1 million tuning into at least six minutes of the game.[51]

During Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2013 season, Spero Dedes filled in for Bill Macatee (on the Chiefs-Jaguars game and the Jaguars-Raiders game the following week), who was calling the US Open. Steve Beuerlein joined the pairing of Dedes and Steve Tasker in Weeks 1 and 2 while Dedes was filling in for Macatee. During Week 8, Dedes filled in for Marv Albert (on the Steelers-Raiders game), who called the Bulls/Heat game for TNT. During Week 13, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms called two games for CBS. They announced the Thanksgiving game on Thursday (this year, the Lions vs. the Raiders), as they did each year, and the competitive game between Denver and Kansas City on Sunday. The following week, Don Criqui, who had retired from NFL play-by-play after the 2012 season, temporarily came out of retirement and filled in for Bill Macatee, who had trouble traveling due to a winter storm in Texas. Criqui called the Cleveland-New England game with former partner Steve Tasker. Criqui's one game in 2013 marked the 47th season Criqui had called an NFL game, the longest active streak among announcers not just in the NFL, but in all sports on network television.

The late-afternoon regional games held on December 1, 2013 (DenverKansas City and CincinnatiSan Diego) drew a 16.7 household rating, a 29 share, and 28.106 million viewers from 4:25 to 7:47 p.m. Eastern Time.[52]

During Week 15 of the 2013 season, Andrew Catalon filled in for Marv Albert on the Bills-Jaguars game.

Changes for 2014-15

Allie LaForce joined Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf as the sideline reporter for the Indianapolis-New England divisional round. Following the AFC Divisional round, Dan Dierdorf retired after 29 years calling NFL games for CBS and ABC. Dierdorf would be calling Michigan football games on radio beginning next season.

In May 2014, Marv Albert announced he is stepping down from calling NFL games. With the retirements of Marv Albert and Don Criqui, Kevin Harlan joined Rich Gannon as the #4 team for the first time since 2008 while Spero Dedes joined the broadcast team permanently as Harlan's replacement alongside Solomon Wilcots. Meanwhile, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, and Jenny Dell were promoted to the #2 broadcast team for 2014. On Sundays when CBS does not have the 4:25 p.m. ET national window (except for Week 1), Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, and Jenny Dell were the de facto #1 team, while Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, and Tracy Wolfson had the day off. Examples include Weeks 4, 6-7, 10-11, and 14. Greg Gumbel moved into Ian Eagle's place as the #3 play-by-play spot, with analyst Trent Green joining CBS television after previously working with Eagle on Westwood One's NFL radio broadcasts. Green also called games for Fox television. CBS also planed to use local reporters to cover the sideline for their 4-8th tier announcing teams.

Tom McCarthy also joined CBS from Westwood One, where he called NFL games on the radio, while Brian Anderson joined due to his association with CBS for March Madness. McCarthy and Anderson are also both baseball announcers. Anderson had commitments with Fox Sports Wisconsin for their Milwaukee Brewers telecasts and Turner Sports for the Major League Baseball playoffs. McCarthy meanwhile, had commitments to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia for its broadcasts of Philadelphia Phillies games. McCarthy continued to call games for Westwood One when he is not scheduled for television duties with CBS. When Anderson was away on assignment, Brad Johansen was available to fill in for Anderson. McCarthy had no conflicts with baseball duties in the 2014 NFL season.

On November 24, 2014, CBS presented a special Monday night game between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills from Ford Field (which was moved from Ralph Wilson Stadium due to a major lake effect snowstorm that affected Western New York).[53] The game, which saw the Bills defeat the Jets 38–3, was only televised locally in the New York and Buffalo markets, and was available nationally via the NFL Sunday Ticket package.[54][55]

For the 2015 season, Jenny Dell moved from the NFL to college football for CBS. Meanwhile, Evan Washburn moved up from the #3 team to the #2 team as a sideline reporter while Jamie Erdahl moved up from college football to the #3 team. Meanwhile, Carter Blackburn replaced Brad Johansen as the back-up NFL play-by-play announcer. Blackburn would subsequently, Brian Anderson as the back-up NFL play-by-play announcer starting in 2016. Chris Fischer was used as an additional sideline reporter. Fischer was not assigned to any particular commentator pairing and rotated among several.

2014–2017: Thursday night games

See also: Thursday Night Football

In January 2014, reports surfaced that the NFL was shopping a selection of up to eight games from its Thursday Night Football package to other broadcasters, including the league's existing broadcast partners, along with Turner Sports. While the league was seeking either a cable or broadcast outlet, they were strongly considering the latter.[56][57][58][59]

On February 5, 2014, it was announced that CBS would air eight, early-season Thursday night games during the 2014 NFL season in simulcast with NFL Network, with the remainder airing on NFL Network exclusively. CBS's team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms handled commentary for all of the games, and CBS Sports produced all of the games in the package, including those on NFL Network, which would be produced in the manner of CBS telecasts. Tracy Wolfson would be the sideline reporter. Wolfson joined the NFL team on a permanent basis after working SEC games for CBS since 2004. She was replaced by Allie LaForce in that capacity. As a part of the contract, CBS was also allowed to broadcast a Saturday game in Week 16 for the first time since 2005.[60][61]

In 2014, a special Saturday edition of Thursday Night Football caused the announcer pairings of Ian Eagle/Dan Fouts/Jenny Dell (San Diego-San Francisco) and Kevin Harlan/Rich Gannon/Stacey Dales (Philadelphia-Washington) to be absent from their Sunday afternoon assignments. This shook up the announcer lineup for Sunday, which looked like this during Week 16:

  1. Jim Nantz/Phil Simms/Tracy Wolfson (Indianapolis-Dallas)
  2. Greg Gumbel/Trent Green/Evan Washburn (Kansas City-Pittsburgh)
  3. Spero Dedes/Solomon Wilcots (New England-New York Jets)
  4. Andrew Catalon/Steve Beuerlein/Steve Tasker/Lewis Johnson (Baltimore-Houston)
  5. Tom McCarthy/Adam Archuleta (Cleveland-Carolina)
  6. Brian Anderson/Chris Simms (Buffalo-Oakland)

Harlan and Eagle returned to Sunday afternoons in Week 17 when they called the Browns-Ravens game.

On January 18, 2015, the NFL announced that CBS and the NFL Network would again partner, with the same broadcast schedule, during the 2015 NFL season.[62] The contract is again only for one year, while CBS's Sunday contract is 12 years long. The contract was renewed for another two years for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, with the network load reduced to five games each year. CBS also partnered with Yahoo! Sports during the 2015 season, with Yahoo live streaming a CBS-produced game around the globe. The game was not available on CBS except in the local markets of the teams (Jacksonville and Buffalo). CBS again produced Yahoo! Sports's webcast of the Jaguars's 2017 game against Baltimore.

On January 31, 2018, the NFL announced that Fox won the rights to televise Thursday Night Football for the next five seasons; this came after CBS requested a lower rights fee to compensate for declining viewership.[63][64]

Tony Romo joins CBS

Following his retirement from the NFL, Tony Romo was hired by CBS Sports to serve as the lead color analyst for the network's NFL telecasts, working in the booth alongside play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz, replacing Phil Simms, who was moved to the studio for The NFL Today.[65][66]

While there was no controversy of Romo deciding to retire and move on to broadcasting, some critics questioned Romo being immediately hired for the number one position ahead of broadcasting veterans Dan Fouts, Trent Green, or Rich Gannon, all of whom served in the number 2–4 positions respectively for CBS, with Fouts having once been the color commentator on Monday Night Football. While some critics had speculated that Romo was handed the top position so quickly because he wore a star on his helmet,[67] other reports cited CBS having grown tired of Simms in the role, which was a mutual feeling by Simms himself. Nonetheless, none of the ex-players and coaches in a lead position on other networks at the time of Romo's hiring (Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth, and Jon Gruden) started their broadcasting career in the lead position.[68] Simms jokingly asked Romo "How does that seat feel?" during Week 1 of The NFL Today.[69]

Once the 2017 NFL season got underway, Romo received critical praise for his work as a recent ex-player, most notably for his ability to predict offensive plays and read defensive formations from the booth, and "adding an enthusiasm that had been lacking with Simms".[70][71][72][73]

Romo and Nantz received further acclaim for their broadcasting of the 2019 AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, as "Nantz continually set Romo up to make his predictions and analysis prior to the snap", and some suggested that Chiefs head coach "Andy Reid could have used Romo on his defensive staff, because the former quarterback knew just about every play the Patriots were going to run down the stretch". According to The Guardian, the "beauty of Romo’s analysis is that it feels like he’s in on the fun with you."[74][75] Romo and Nantz called Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

CBS's coverage of Super Bowl LIII utilized a total of 115 cameras, including 8K resolution cameras (for the first time in a U.S. network sports telecast) in the end zones, as well as field-level and "up close" augmented reality graphics (with the latter generated from a wireless, handheld camera).[76][77] Initial overnight Nielsen Ratings measured a 44.9 rating for the game, down 5% from the previous year and the lowest rating for a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XLIII ten years prior.[78] 98.2 million viewers were measured, the fewest since Super Bowl XLII.[79] Jemele Hill of The Atlantic attributed the low ratings "to the game being the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever, moderate national interest in the Los Angeles Rams, the lingering bad taste from New Orleans Saints fans regarding the huge blown call in the NFC Championship Game, and Patriots fatigue".[80]

Other announcer transactions for 2017-18

Solomon Wilcots left CBS prior to the start of the 2017 season. Wilcots would be replaced on the #6 team alongside Spero Dedes by Adam Archuleta. Neither the Jim Nantz/Tony Romo/Tracy Wolfson crew nor the Dedes/Archuleta crew called any games for CBS during Week 9 of the 2018 season. Meanwhile, James Lofton joined CBS in 2017, his first time as a color commentator on TV since 1997, NBC's last season covering the AFC. Lofton would pair up with Andrew Catalon on the #5 team replacing Steve Tasker. Tasker moved from game analyst (where he worked with Tom McCarthy on the #7 team) to sideline reporter for the 2018 season, teaming with Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon. It would be Tasker's last season with CBS, as the network would dismiss Tasker after the season when his contract expired. The rotating sideline reporters used on most teams during the 2016-17 seasons were abandoned. Only the Catalon/Lofton team used rotating sideline reporters for most of the 2018 season.

In 2017, Beth Mowins became the first woman ever to call a football game for CBS, when she called the Browns-Colts game with Jay Feely in Week 3. During Weeks 13 of the 2018 season, Mowins was set to call games along with analyst Feely but was not scheduled due to NFL's flex scheduling. To give you a better idea, in Week 13, the 49ers-Bears game cross-flexed from Fox to CBS while the Broncos-Dolphins game was cross-flexed from CBS to Fox. Mowins and Feely however, would get to call the Chiefs-Broncos game in Week 17.

For the 2018 season, Bruce Arians and Melanie Collins joined Greg Gumbel and Trent Green respectively as an additional game analyst and sideline reporter, with the latter replacing Jamie Erdahl, who became the lead sideline reporter for the SEC on CBS. During Week 11, Arians did not call the TexansRedskins match-up due to illness. This would be Bruce Arians' only season with CBS as he would leave to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Commentators Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts called the Dolphins-Patriots game on December 9, 2018 for CBS's NFL coverage.

Eagle's call of the play:

Seven seconds left. Tannehill will throw it... and this will end it after the shovel. Or will it? Miami running around. Circling. Oh look out! Gronkowski! Didn't have the angle! Touchdown! Oh ho Kenyan Drake! A miracle! Miraculous in Miami! Stills... to Parker, to Drake! A lateral... heard 'round the world!

Market coverage and television policies

See also: List of CBS affiliates (disambiguation), NFL on television, and Primary NFL television stations

As with Fox's coverage, the network's stations are divided into different groups based on the most popular or closest team to that market or, if that does not apply, based on the allure of a particular game. Each football game is rated as an "A", "B" or "C" game, with "A" games likely being televised nationally and "C" games airing only in the home television markets of the two participating teams. Significantly more behind-the-scenes resources are dedicated to "A" game coverage.

Under NFL broadcasting rules, CBS must televise all of its assigned games in the home market of the visiting team (and, if it is sold out, the city where the game is being played) in its entirety. If a game is non-competitive, the network may switch all but the two home markets to another game. If the home team's game is blacked out, the local CBS affiliate is not allowed to replace it with another game.

From 1970 to 1993, CBS exclusively covered games involving only NFC opponents and interconference games in which the road team was a member of the NFC. From 1998 to 2013, CBS exclusively broadcast AFC-only games and interconference games featuring an AFC road team. Since the 2014 season, while AFC-only games still form the bulk of CBS's coverage, the league reserves the right to move games between CBS and Fox regardless of conference affiliation to maximize viewership – for example, high-profile NFC matchups that would be relegated to regional coverage because they occur during Fox's singleheader week can be moved to CBS' afternoon window.[81]

Local preseason television coverage

Since CBS re-obtained the NFL broadcast rights in 1998, a number of the network's local stations have televised preseason football games, mostly including the network's graphics and production that viewers would normally see during regular season national/regional broadcasts.

A number of NFL teams and their broadcasting departments have teamed up with CBS Sports to produce games; as of 2011, these teams include the New York Jets (WCBS-TV in New York City) and Green Bay Packers (WGBA-TV in Green Bay and co-flagship WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee; since former CBS O&O WFRV-TV in Green Bay lost the local rights to the preseason games, Packers coverage on WGBA and WTMJ currently uses NBC's graphics package as both are affiliates of that network, although the telecasts continue to use a CBS technical and announcing team).

However, there are some that used a few, but not all, elements of the NFL on CBS production presentations, and they are mostly in-house productions between the teams and their individual flagship station; these include the Pittsburgh Steelers (KDKA-TV), Miami Dolphins (WFOR-TV), San Francisco 49ers (KPIX and KOVR in Sacramento), Dallas Cowboys (KTVT), Cincinnati Bengals (WKRC-TV), Kansas City Chiefs (KCTV), New England Patriots (WBZ-TV), Atlanta Falcons (WGCL-TV) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (WJAX-TV). CBS O&O WWJ-TV in Detroit was the Detroit Lions' flagship station from 2008 to 2010 and used most of their graphics and music. In addition to WWJ, of the stations mentioned, WCBS; KCBS; KDKA; WFOR; KTVT; KPIX; KOVR and WBZ are all currently owned by CBS Corporation.

On-air staff

Main article: List of NFL on CBS announcers

Digital on-screen graphics


CBS Sports debuted on-screen graphics (as opposed to simple text) for its event telecasts in 1991. These graphics used a small score graphic that contained the score and game clock, which was removed during plays. The graphics were gray, beveled edged rectangles, with logos shown in a beveled edged square.


From 1998 to 2000, the scoring bug had a half-capsule shape where the score was displayed in white text on a blue background (that contained the CBS eye), below the quarter and time in black text on a white background. The down and distance would pop out from the bottom of the bug in a white box when necessary; it would spin around to show the number of timeouts left. The standard graphics were blue, and individual team graphics were colored according to the team.


Starting in Super Bowl XXXV, the bug took on a more rectangular shape, with the score and quarter/time positions flipped. The scores were now displayed in white text against a gold background, and the quarter and time beneath them in a white text on a blue background. The down and distance and ball location popped out in two separate boxes underneath the main bug. The team-specific colors for graphics were dropped, and would not be used again by CBS until 2013.


In 2002, a new bug with more of a horizontal orientation was introduced. The CBS Sports logo that previously adorned the top of the bug was replaced with the CBS "eye" logo in blue and white. The bug was divided into two rectangles, the left one housing the time and quarter and the right the teams and scores, all in white text on blue. As in years past, the down and distance were contained in a pop-out box, also in the blue and white scheme.

In 2002, the graphics package itself remained the same as in 2000 and 2001. However, the look was updated in 2003 to more closely match the design of the score box. In 2004 and 2005, the top two games each week were presented in high definition. These HD broadcasts used a score box optimized for the 16:9 frame, the first time that a U.S. network had used graphics optimized for high definition.

In Week 3 of the 2004 season, CBS unveiled a constant scoring update bar on the bottom of the screen (the first of its kind). This was initially called "Game Trax", and complimented "Stat Trax", unveiled the year before which was the first system to show player statistics updates popping out of the score display after a play (now standard on all networks).


The 2006 season introduced a new graphics package for The NFL on CBS, including a new logo (which also formed the base of SEC college football and NCAA college basketball logos) and new NFL Today studio set, as part of a network-wide overhaul of the graphics package. The digital on-screen graphics were also changed, with red and a light shade of blue introduced from the new logo. A more complex scoring bug included the new NFL on CBS logo and six circle segments stacked in columns of two emanating from the logo. The first two featured the quarter and time, the next two the team abbreviations (all in white text on the darker blue) and the last two each team's respective scores in black text on a white background. The entire bug was trimmed in the red and lighter blue; the down and distance pop-out changed to a half-ellipse shape.

When a team scores a touchdown, the columns that emanate from the logo collapse into the logo. The logo then quickly spins around to show the scoring team's logo, a full bar the shape of the combined boxes quickly protruding showing the word "TOUCHDOWN", with the bug sparkling. After about three or four seconds of this graphic showing, the aforementioned animation takes place once more, this time with the bug returning to normal. In all instances of points scored, the changed score flashes a few times to indicate a change in score, with a touchdown score changing after the "TOUCHDOWN" graphic is shown. Notably, this score box was not optimized for high definition as the previous package was, even on HD games.


In 2009, the score bug was changed to a top-screen banner, although the graphics package used from 2006 remains the same. This bug featured, horizontally left-to-right, the CBS "eye" logo, the down and distance against a white background, each team's logo, initials and points, and then the quarter and remaining time. When the down and distance was not displayed, that and the CBS "eye" logo were replaced by a blue and red "NFL on CBS" logo. When there was a penalty, the word "FLAG" replaced the down and distance on a yellow background, with the penalty description dropping down from below the team's initials; when there is an official review, the down and distance would be replaced by "OFFICIAL REVIEW" on a red background. For challenges, a drop-down below the teams initials with a dark red background shows with the word "CHALLENGE." The play clock would flash red when it hit the 5-second mark and stays red until the play clock is reset. When a team scored a touchdown, the entire bar would change, displaying the scoring team's logo on the left and the team's main color as the background, with the word "TOUCHDOWN" with the letter spacing widening for a few moments before returning to normal. After such, the team's score will be highlighted their color, and the previous score will be replaced by the new score (this also happens when the team's PAT or 2-point conversion is ruled to be good). After this occurs, stats of players involved immediately appear in the bottom of the banner.

A small white indicator showed on the top of the bar, on top of whatever team currently had possession of the ball. At times, at the bottom of the bar, various player statistics (such as quarterback ratings), game stats (such as drive summaries), and situational issues in the game (such as amount of timeouts remaining), would pop open for a few moments whenever it is needed. For Week 3 of the 2009 season, the possession indicator was changed to a small dot next to the team's logo due to the addition of timeout indicators across the top.

Beginning with the NCAA football season in September 2011, college football broadcasts on CBS and the CBS Sports Network began using a scoring bug mirroring this one. CBS Sports Network's United Football League coverage in 2012 also used the same graphics package.


CBS debuted a new graphics package starting with the network's coverage of Super Bowl XLVII; the package was used for all CBS game telecasts beginning with the 2013 season.[82] Originally optimized for a 4:3 display, the elements are now optimized for the 16:9 format as a result of the network's incorporation of the AFD #10 broadcast tag.

The lower third graphics adopt the column layout for player info graphics used by several other sports broadcasters. The portion containing the player's name is stacked on the left, with the team's primary color in the background of the name panel. Other statistics are shown on a gray background on panels to the right. The score banner is gray with team abbreviations listed over their primary color and next to their logo. For Sunday game broadcasts, the NFL on CBS logo is placed on the left; the "NFL" portion disappears and is replaced by the down and distance, "Flag", or "Official Review". Also for the Sunday broadcasts, challenges and statistics drop down from the bar. The only scoring play which used an animation is a touchdown, which involves the team logo and the word "Touchdown" appearing in place of the banner. Timeout indicators are located above the team abbreviations for Sunday broadcasts, and a possession indicator is located to the right of the abbreviation.

Since the network began airing the evening games in 2014, Thursday Night Football games use a package with the usual CBS curved-edged graphics, however incorporating a generic "TNF" logo in lower thirds instead of the CBS logo because of the fact that Thursday broadcasts also air on the NFL Network. A "TNF" text logo is also used in the border of full screen graphics where the "NFL on CBS" text is usually seen. The score bar is located on the bottom of the screen instead of the top, with the "NFL on CBS" text replaced by a "CBS TNF" mark, and the "TNF" portion disappearing to show down and distance. The usual play clock location is instead home to an NFL Network logo, with the play clock moved next to the game clock for Thursdays only. Any information that drops down from the bar on Sundays instead pops up from the bar on the Thursday broadcasts, with timeout indicators flipped to the bottom.

For the London NFL International Series game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars live-streamed on Yahoo in 2015, all silver "CBS" marks in the graphics package were replaced by purple "Yahoo" logos. The game used the top-screen version of the scoring banner. The UK broadcast on Sky Sports featured no Yahoo or CBS logos, while the BBC Two broadcast was a clean feed using the regular BBC Sport graphics package used for Rugby coverage.


Beginning with the network's February 7, 2016 broadcast of Super Bowl 50, and continuing with the network's broadcast of Super Bowl LIII, CBS Sports debuted a new logo along with a new on-air graphics package that is optimized for the 16:9 format. The new graphics were rolled out on all of CBS Sports' other properties (including the network's joint production of NCAA March Madness with Turner Sports) in subsequent months.

The score bar is now located at the bottom of the screen for all broadcasts, no matter what day they take place on. The CBS eye logo is at the far left. If there is no down and distance displayed, the word "NFL" accompanies the logo. The down-and-distance display, which was previously shown on the left side of the bar, is now shown on the right side of the bar. When it appears, the "NFL" on the other side of the bar disappears. Possession of the ball is indicated by the background color in the down-and-distance display. The play clock is now located to the right of the game clock. The timeout indicators, which are now shown as white dash marks, are located below the team's abbreviation, both placed against the team's main color. The team logo is to the left of the abbreviation. The score is in a darker shade of the team's color to the right. Whenever a team scores a touchdown, the graphic displays the team's wordmark, followed by "TOUCHDOWN" before the graphic returns to normal. Beginning with Week 6 of the 2017 NFL season, the records for each team were displayed to the right of the timeout indicators. During the playoffs and Week 1 of the 2018 season, the records are not displayed (the latter due to it being the first slate of games for the season).

The new "NFL on CBS" logo has reversed the order, now reading "CBS NFL", and is constantly present in the upper-right corner of the screen.

However, the new package was not implemented for CBS's reduced schedule of early-season Thursday Night Football broadcasts, which continued to use the previous set (with CBS logos continuing to be replaced by generic TNF logos). The 2013 graphics continued to be used on 2017 TNF broadcasts. Also in 2017, for CBS-produced games airing only on NFLN, the 2013 graphics continued to be used, but with the "CBS TNF" logo modified to "NFL TNF" for these games, using the NFL shield in place of the CBS eye logo and the word "CBS". CBS ceased airing the Thursday games after 2017. There was a minor upgrade to this play clock when it gets to :05 remaining red light drains down and if a team scores a Touchdown The Team's Name pop up first then TOUCHDOWN in Team's colors and The Down & Distance markings now shows the Play Clock popped out for all games regardless of broadcast team debuted during Super Bowl LIII.

A version of this package was used during all games of the short lived Alliance of American Football league in the Spring of 2019, with all CBS branding replaced with AAF branding for non-CBS games (the AAF was also broadcast on Turner Sports and the NFL Network).


Main article: NFL on CBS music

Nielsen ratings

The Sunday afternoon, October 14, 2007 game between the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys on CBS, was viewed by 29.1 million people,[83] making it the most-watched NFL Sunday game since the Dallas CowboysSan Francisco 49ers game on November 10, 1996 on Fox (29.7 million viewers), according to Nielsen Media Research data. The game was also the most-watched television program for the week of October 8–14, drawing nine million viewers more than the CBS crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (19.8 million viewers), and was the most-watched program of the season.

The November 4, 2007, broadcast of a game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts drew a 20.1 rating[84] and 33.8 million viewers for CBS.

During the 17-week 2008 season (September 4–December 28, 2008), CBS' regular-season game telecasts were watched by an estimated cumulative audience of 150.9 million viewers, 14% higher than NBC's 132.4 million viewers, 3% higher than Fox's 146.9 million viewers, and 52% higher than ESPN's 99.4 million. The cumulative audience is based on the total number of viewers (persons 2+) who watched at least six minutes of NFL game coverage since the start of the 2008 regular season.[citation needed]

For the 2009 season, the network's regular-season telecasts averaged 19.509 million viewers (counting only seven airings during the season by Nielsen).[85] For the first thirteen weeks of the 2013 season, the CBS game telecasts averaged 26.5 million viewers.[86]

See also


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  3. ^ Val Adams (January 25, 1964). "C.B.S.-TV to Pay $28.2 Million For 2-Year Pro Football Rights". The New York Times. p. 1.
  4. ^ Dave Brady (November 24, 1963). "It's Tradition To Carry on, Rozelle Says". The Washington Post. p. C2.
  5. ^ "CBS TV audio from 1965 NFL Championship game". Classic TV Sports. January 23, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  6. ^ Eisenberg, Jeff (January 31, 2007). "A Dream Deferred". The Press-Enterprise. Archived from the original on May 20, 2011.
  7. ^ "Chicago Tribune - Historical Newspapers".
  8. ^ "Chicago Tribune - Historical Newspapers".
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  10. ^ "Chicago Tribune - Historical Newspapers".
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  12. ^ "Chicago Tribune - Historical Newspapers".
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  14. ^ Madsen 15
  15. ^ "Press release" (PDF). May 11, 1977. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  16. ^ "Broadcasting" (PDF). January 16, 1978. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  17. ^ "Broadcasting" (PDF). January 23, 1978. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  18. ^ "The first telecast for the team of Pat Summerall and John Madden". Classic Sports TV and Media. November 26, 2012. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
  19. ^ Weintraub, Rob (May 23, 2016). "The Day Vin Scully Didn't Land That N.F.L. Broadcasting Job". New York Times.
  20. ^ Fang, Ken (May 24, 2016). "Did you know Vin Scully almost became John Madden's partner at CBS?". Awful Announcing.
  21. ^ O'Neil, Terry (1989). The Game Behind the Game: High Pressure, High Stakes in Sports Television. Harper and Row. p. 110. ISBN 9780060160197.
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  23. ^ NFL on CBS Theme (1990-92) on YouTube
  24. ^ Steve Wulf (December 27, 1993). "Out Foxed: Rupert Murdoch's upstart network snatched the NFL from CBS in a coup that will change the face of televised sports". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
  25. ^ a b "NBC Gets Final N.F.L. Contract While CBS Gets Its Sundays Off". The New York Times. December 21, 1993. Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  26. ^ a b Curtis, Bryan (December 13, 2018). "The Great NFL Heist: How Fox Paid for and Changed Football Forever". The Ringer. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
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NFL on CBS at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata

Preceded byNBC and DuMont National Football League broadcaster(with NBC from 1956 to 1963) 19561969 Succeeded byAFL–NFL merger Preceded byAFL–NFL merger National Football Conference broadcaster 19701993 Succeeded byFox Preceded byNBC American Football Conference broadcaster 1998 – Present Succeeded byIncumbent Preceded byNFL Network NFL Thursday Night Football broadcaster (with NFL Network) 2014–2017 shared with NBC (2016–2017) Succeeded byFox