Inside Blitz: CBS, NFL Network Looking to Build on Partnership

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What’s been rumored for the last six months is inching closer to fruition: CBS Sports is currently engaged in high-level talks about purchasing a large chunk of the NFL Network, multiple industry sources tell Inside Blitz.

CBS and the NFL Network partnered a year ago to televise Thursday Night Football, but insiders are now saying that deal was something of a “trial run” to see about a larger partnership, which appears to be on the horizon.

CBS declined comment.

Three sources say that CBS Sports could potentially acquire 40% or more of the NFL Network, and both sides see it as a win-win for all parties involved. It’s unclear if there’s a timetable yet for the deal to be completed. One source said before next season begins; another said if a deal is reached, the partners would wait to make a “splashy announcement” ahead of next year’s Super Bowl.

Super Bowl 50, which will be a massive extravaganza on February 7, 2016 at Levi’s Stadium in California, will air on CBS.

There are several angles to this complex partnership:

* The NFL Network would then produce TV content to help out the fledgling CBS Sports Network (something that was teased near the bottom of a Jan. 18 press release). Sources say that NFL Network President Brian Rolapp has informally met with three TV executives who might helm such content production, including one prominent name at ESPN.

* There’s potential for some type of Sunday pregame integration between the two networks in the future, similar to how CBS and the NFL Network joined forces on Thursday nights.

* When asked why NBC or Fox wouldn’t have a crack at buying some or all of NFL Network – ostensibly to help NBC Sports Network or Fox Sports 1 – a source said: “The partnership with CBS went well, and nobody at either of those networks is as close with Bob Kraft – the most powerful owner in the NFL – as Les Moonves at CBS.”

Initially when the CBS/NFL Network partnership was hatched in 2014, the NFL held an option for year two. That option was triggered in January. The partnership was mutually beneficial last season, as Sunday pregame ratings were up for CBS and the NFL Network.

Next season, CBS will again broadcast the first eight games Thursday Night Football games – as will NFL Network – and then the remainder will only appear on the NFL Network. NFL Network hosts will be used in the pregame, halftime and postgame shows while Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are in the booth.

 WELL, THIS IS PROMISING

Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, seems to be catching onto the NBA game rather quickly. The Timberwolves are abysmal, but you already knew that would happen.What’s impressed me is that Wiggins is on a team where his pass-first point guard has been out for 42 games (Ricky Rubio) and Wiggins is surrounded by basically a volume shooting guard (Kevin Martin) and two other guys who play his position (Thaddeus Young, Shabazz Muhammad).

And Wiggins is improving significantly on a monthly basis.

He’s also just 19 years old for another few weeks. In case you missed him abuse the hell out of Cleveland Friday – especially JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, but even LeBron once – you should definitely check out this 33-point performance:

LIFE OF AN AGENT

Esquire Network is producing a documentary – not a reality series! – along the lines of Hard Knocks featuring four football agents: Peter Schaffer, Sunny Shah, Ed Wasielewski and Jeff Guerrero. The documentary, which the network hopes will have a whiff of Hard Knocks, has been following the agents around for several weeks now, and will continue to do so up through the draft. The untitled show is expected to air this summer.

The word on the street is that former NFL lineman Mark Schlereth and his family – yes, his daughter, Alexandria, is involved – are filming some sort of MTV reality show … Matthew Berry’s life keeps getting better: They’re making a pilot about his life as a fantasy football guru, and E from Entourage is gonna play him … Michelle Tafoya on the state of the sideline reporterRIP sportscaster Don Shea …  so when ESPN has Dan Dakich cover some of the Big 10 tournament, will he get extra security there, too? … Bob Ojeda is out on the Mets pregame show on SNY … well, that sucks: Watch a radio host get served with divorce papers while on the air … ESPN’s John Walsh, who had been with the network since 1988, retired on February 1st … SEC network host Dane Bradshaw – who played at Tennessee – stepped off the set and sank a 3-pointer … more changes coming to Bleacher Report? … Wright Thompson goes long about his career before ESPN … CBS/Turner moved swiftly to replace Greg Anthony in the booth at the Final 4 – Bill Raftery (!) and Grant Hill will call the games with Jim Nantz. Grant Hill, a beloved player at Duke with universal appeal, called some NCAA tournament games last year for the first time.