ORLANDO – Being in this central Florida city brings back memories for Robert Kraft.
"We've owned the team 20 years, and I was thinking back, I believe our first owners meeting was here 20 years ago – different hotel, but when they voting to approve us as owners. [It's] a little emotional coming back. We've had an interesting couple of decades," he said with a grin.
Over the past two decades, the Patriots owner has become one of the most influential people in the NFL. He now sits on five committees, including chairing the powerful Broadcasting Committee, which he said he is "privileged" to do. Kraft spoke proudly about the new Thursday Night Football package which he and Commissioner Roger Goodell recently negotiated.
The deal calls for a joint venture between CBS and NFL Network. CBS will produce all 16 games (14 Thursday nighters and two on Saturday late in the year), but only air the first eight. NFL Network will simulcast the first eight games, then air the CBS-produced final eight, with CBS hosts Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in the broadcast booth for the 14 Thursday night contests. NFL Network personalities will host pre-game, halftime, and post-game broadcasts the fill out the coverage.
"The Commissioner and I worked very hard on it. We had every media company work very hard to get a one-year deal," Kraft explained. "And the main thing they had to do was promote Thursday Night Football. We chose CBS because they're the number-one network with the most eyeballs [in terms of viewership], and that should hopefully allow us to double our ratings on the NFL Network. I think it was slightly less than a 5 and we hope to be over 10.
"[CBS] will be moving 'The Big Bang Theory' from Thursday night, which is the number-one show on TV, to Monday night at 8 o'clock so they won't go against Monday Night Football again, and move it back after our half-season package with them is over."
The NFL retains the option of extending the deal for an additional year.