Thursday Night Football
|Thursday Night Football|
The logo for Thursday Night Football for the 2014 NFL season.
|Also known as||Run to the Playoffs|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||48|
|Running time||180 minutes+|
|Original channel||NFL Network (2006–present)
CBS (2014–; airing nine games, producing all games)
|Original run||November 23, 2006– present|
Thursday Night Football was originally part of NFL Network's Run To the Playoffs package which consisted of eight total games broadcast on Thursday and Saturday nights late in the season. It debuted on November 23, 2006, with the Kansas City Chiefs handing the visiting Denver Broncos a 19–10 Thanksgiving defeat. Most games kick off at 8:20 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). Five games aired on Thursday nights, the other three on Saturday nights. Each game would be called either Thursday Night Football or Saturday Night Football, depending on the night on which it aired. This format carried over to the 2007 season.
Starting in 2008, NFL Network eliminated all but one of the Saturday night games and started their Thursday night package three weeks earlier. This was to accommodate the earlier schedule and the league's antitrust exemption, which prohibits Saturday games during college football season. In the following season, all references to Saturday Night Football were dropped and any games not played on Thursday were referred to as a "special edition" of Thursday Night Football; since then, however, relatively few Thursday Night Football games have been played outside of Thursdays.
On launch, the package proved highly controversial mainly due to the relative unavailability of NFL Network at the time; the league used the games as leverage to encourage television providers to carry NFL Network on their basic service tiers, rather than in premium, sports-oriented packages; although, as with all other national cable telecasts of NFL games, the league's own regulations require the games to be syndicated to over-the-air stations in the local markets of the teams. These issues were magnified in 2007, when a game that saw the New England Patriots close out a perfect regular season was simulcast nationally on both CBS and NBC, in addition to NFL Network and the local stations the game was sold to, following concerns from politicians and other critics.
Since 2012, NFL Network has aired games beginning in the second week of the season. It no longer has the rights to the Thanksgiving night broadcast; that game and the season opening Thursday night contest are televised as part of NBC's Sunday Night Football package.
In 2014 season, CBS Sports took over production of Thursday Night Football. A total of nine games aired on CBS in simulcast with NFL Network and CBS' primary broadcast crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms calling the entire slate of games. In addition, NFL Network extended the length of the Thursday telecasts to Week 16 of the season. This includes a pair of Saturday broadcasts, which will be split between CBS and NFL Network.
- 1 Background
- 2 Coverage
- 3 Game announcers
- 4 Results
- 5 Thursday Night Football all-time team standings
- 6 Reception
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The NFL Network's coverage was not the first time games were covered on Thursday or Saturday. Prior to the new contract, ESPN carried a handful of sporadic Thursday night games (usually those displaced from Sunday night) and the broadcast networks used to air several national games on Saturday afternoons in mid-to-late December after the regular college football season ended, a practice which has since been discontinued. Incidentally, the only reason the league is even allowed to televise football games on Saturday night stems from a legal loophole: the league's antitrust exemption, the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, was written when the NFL regular season ended in mid-December, and as such, it contains specific language that prohibits televising NFL games in most markets on Friday nights and all day on Saturdays between the second week of September and the second week of December, to protect high school and college football. Since most high school and college seasons have ended by mid-December, other than bowl games, there has been little desire to close this loophole, even though the regular season has expanded well beyond mid-December since the law's passage.
In 2005, when the NFL negotiated a new set of television contracts, Comcast-owned OLN offered to pay $450 million for an eight-year contract to carry NFL games in prime time. In exchange, Comcast planned to add NFL Network to its digital cable lineup. The channel was added, but NFLN decided to air the games itself, foregoing a rights fee. The other TV deals generated $3.735 billion per year over an eight-year period for CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and DirecTV.
The Thanksgiving matchup was moved from NFL Network to NBC's broadcast package as part of the new broadcast contract after the 2011 season. During Super Bowl week in 2012, it was announced that the Thursday Night Football package would expand from 8 to 13 games and air on NFL Network, again soliciting and rejecting offers from Turner Sports and Comcast.
Partnership with CBS
In January 2014, it was reported that the NFL was planning to sub-license a package of up to eight Thursday Night Football games to another broadcaster for the 2014 NFL season. The league had negotiated with its existing broadcast partners, along with Turner Sports. These eight games were to be simulcast by NFL Network, and reports indicated that ESPN planned to place the games on ABC in the event it won the rights, bringing the NFL back to the network for the first time since Super Bowl XL and the move of Monday Night Football to ESPN in 2006. The decision came as the league wished to heighten the profile of its Thursday night games, which had suffered from relatively lower viewership and advertising revenue in comparison to other games.
On February 5, 2014, the NFL announced that CBS had acquired rights to Thursday Night Football for the 2014 season. Under the agreement, all of the Thursday Night Football telecasts would be produced by CBS Sports and called by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. The first eight games of the season, along with half of a new Saturday doubleheader for Week 16, will be simulcast nationally on NFL Network and CBS. The remaining games in the package only air nationally on NFL Network, but CBS affiliates in the home markets of the teams involved have the right of first refusal to air the games locally—a Thursday night game involving the Cincinnati Bengals aired on NBC affiliate WLWT rather than CBS affiliate WKRC-TV. Talent from both networks collaborate on pre-game, halftime, and post-game coverage. The contract, valued at $275 million, will initially last for one season, but the league and CBS have the option to renew.
The NFL considered CBS's bid to be the most attractive, owing to the network's overall ratings stature, a commitment to aggressively promote the Thursday games across its properties, and its plans to utilize CBS Sports' top NFL talent and production staff across all of the games in the package to ensure a major improvement in quality over the previous, in-house productions. In particular, CBS specifically aimed to produce the games at the same quality as post-season games, in order to provide a "grand" presentation to viewers; a distinct graphics package co-branded with CBS and NFL Network logos is used for the games, certain players on each team wear microphones in-game, and 4K cameras are used to allow zoom-in shots during instant replays. CBS staff also cited experience with its joint coverage of the NCAA Men's basketball tournament with Turner Sports as an advantage in its collaboration with NFL Network staff.
With the move of selected games to CBS, media executives expected more major match-ups to appear on Thursday Night Football than in previous years in order to attract better viewership; in the past, Thursday Night Football had been criticized for often featuring games between lesser and poorer-performing teams. CBS and the NFL unveiled the games scheduled for Thursday Night Football in April 2014; the slate of games aired by CBS incorporate a number of major divisional rivalries, including New York Giants/Washington, Green Bay/Minnesota, and its opening game on September 11, 2014, featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
In the wake of the controversy surrounding Ravens player Ray Rice (who had been removed from the team and suspended from the NFL earlier in the week following the discovery of footage showing the player physically assaulting his wife), changes were made to pre-game coverage on the first game in order to accommodate additional interviews and discussion related to the incident. Among these changes were the removal of an introductory segment featuring Rihanna (who was similarly assaulted by fellow performer Chris Brown in 2009) performing her song "Run This Town". Following complaints by Rihanna on Twitter regarding the removal, the song was pulled entirely from future broadcasts.
Bryant Gumbel served as play-by-play announcer from 2006 through 2007, resigning in early 2008. He was replaced by Bob Papa. Cris Collinsworth was the color commentator until taking over for John Madden as lead analyst on NBC Sunday Night Football in 2009; Matt Millen succeeded him that year, with Joe Theismann joining as a second analyst in 2010. Brad Nessler (play-by-play) and Mike Mayock have called the Thursday night games since 2011. There was no sideline reporter until 2009 when Scott Hanson assumed that role; Adam Schefter and Marshall Faulk of NFL Total Access have also contributed from the field at various times. Dick Vermeil served as color commentator for Saturday games in 2006.
Pregame, halftime and postgame coverage
Each game telecast is preceded by NFL Total Access Kickoff, where Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and either Marshall Faulk or Kurt Warner report live from the site of each game. The show generally begins two hours before game time (6 p.m. ET). The same Total Access team hosts the halftime and postgame shows. The game proper is preceded by Thursday Night Kickoff, hosted by James Brown and Deion Sanders. CBS will join Thursday Night Kickoff in-progress at 7:30 p.m. ET during its games.
The NFL on Westwood One Sports provides national radio broadcasts for the games, with Ian Eagle calling play-by-play, Mike Mayock handling color analysis, and Hub Arkush on the sidelines for Thursday Night Football.
- Pre-game show
- James Brown: host (2014–present)
- Bill Cowher: analyst (2014–present)
- Deion Sanders: analyst (2006–present)
- Rich Eisen: host (2006–present)
- Marshall Faulk: analyst (2006–present)
- Steve Mariucci: analyst (2006–present)
- Michael Irvin: analyst (2011–present)
- Game coverage
- Jim Nantz: Play-by-play (2014–present)
- Phil Simms: Color analyst (2014–present)
- Tracy Wolfson: Sideline reporter (2014–present)
- Mike Carey: NFL Rules Expert (2014–present)
- Fran Charles: Pre-game host (2010)
- Cris Collinsworth: Color analyst (2006–2008)
- Alex Flanagan: Sideline reporter (2010–2013)
- Jay Glazer: Pre-game analyst (2010–2011)
- Bryant Gumbel: Play-by-play (2006–2007)
- Tom Hammond: Substitute play-by-play (2007)
- Scott Hanson: Sideline reporter (2009)
- Kara Henderson: Pre-game host (2011)
- Harry Kalas: Sponsorship announcer (2006–2008) (Deceased)
- Matt Millen: Color analyst (2009–2010)
- Jim Mora: Pre-game analyst (2010)
- Bob Papa: Play-by-play (2008–2010)
- Warren Sapp: Pre-game analyst (2008)
- Adam Schefter: Sideline reporter (2006–2008)
- Sterling Sharpe: Pre-game analyst (2010–2011)
- Pat Summerall: Sponsorship announcer (2009)
- Joe Theismann: Color analyst (2010)
- Kurt Warner: Pre-game analyst (2010–2011)
- Dick Vermeil: Saturday color analyst (2006)
- Mike Mayock Color analyst (2011-2013)
- Brad Nessler Play-by-play (2011–13)
- Bonnie Bernstein: Sideline reporter (2006–2007)
- Dick Enberg: Play-by-play (2006–2007)
- Dennis Green: Color analyst ( 2007–2008)
- Randy Cross: Color analyst (2009)
- Sam Wyche: Color analyst (2006)
|This section is outdated. (September 2014)|
Thursday Night Football all-time team standings
This list shows the National Football League teams' all-time standings in the games they played on Thursday Night Football.
Standings are current as of December 28, 2013.
|Team||Games Played||Wins||Losses||Ties||Win Pct.||First Appearance||Most Recent Appearance|
|Indianapolis Colts||6||6||0||1.000||November 22, 2007
defeated Atlanta 31-13
|October 9, 2014
defeated Houston 33-28
|Kansas City Chiefs||4||3||1||.750||November 23, 2006
defeated Denver 19-10
|November 20, 2014
lost to Oakland 24-20
|Pittsburgh Steelers||7||5||2||.714||December 7, 2006
defeated Cleveland 27-7
|September 11, 2014
lost to Baltimore Ravens 26-6
|New York Jets||5||3||2||.600||November 13, 2008
defeated New England 34-31
|September 12, 2013
lost to New England 13-10
|San Diego Chargers||5||4||1||.800||December 4, 2008
defeated Oakland 34-7
|December 12, 2013
defeated Denver 27-20
|Dallas Cowboys||8||6||2||.750||December 16, 2006
defeated Atlanta 38-28
|December 4, 2014
defeated Chicago 41-28
|Philadelphia Eagles||6||3||3||.500||November 27, 2008
defeated Arizona 48-20
|September 19, 2013
lost to Kansas City 26-16
|New York Giants||6||4||2||.667||December 30, 2006
defeated Washington 34-28
|September 25, 2014
defeated Washington 45-14
|San Francisco 49ers||7||5||2||.714||December 14, 2006
defeated Seattle 24-14
|September 26, 2013
defeated St. Louis 35-11
|Denver Broncos||8||5||3||.625||November 23, 2006
lost to Kansas City 19-10
|December 12, 2013
lost to San Diego 27-20
|Atlanta Falcons||6||4||2||.667||December 16, 2006
lost to Dallas 38-28
|September 18, 2014
defeated Buccaneers 56-14
|Chicago Bears||8||4||4||.500||December 6, 2007
lost to Washington 24-16
|December 4, 2014
lost to Dallas 41-28
|Baltimore Ravens||5||3||2||.600||November 30, 2006
lost to Cincinnati 13-7
|September 11, 2014
defeated Pittsburgh 26-6
|Seattle Seahawks||4||2||2||.500||December 14, 2006
lost to San Francisco 24-14
|October 17, 2013
defeated Arizona 34-22
|Green Bay Packers||4||3||1||.750||December 21, 2006
defeated Minnesota 9-7
|October 2, 2014
defeated Minnesota 42-10
|Arizona Cardinals||3||1||2||.333||November 27, 2008
lost to Philadelphia 48-20
|October 17, 2013
lost to Seattle 34-22
|Washington Redskins||3||1||2||.333||December 30, 2006
lost to N.Y. Giants 34-28
|September 25, 2014
lost to N.Y. Giants 45-14
|New England Patriots||3||2||1||.667||December 29, 2007
defeated N.Y. Giants 38-35
|September 13, 2013
defeated N.Y. Jets 13-10
|Miami Dolphins||5||3||2||.600||November 19, 2009
defeated Carolina 24-17
|November 13, 2014
defeated Buffalo 22-9
|Houston Texans||4||1||3||.250||December 13, 2007
defeated Denver 31-13
|October 9, 2014
lost to Indianapolis 33-28
|Oakland Raiders||3||1||2||.333||December 23, 2006
lost to Kansas City 20-9
|November 20, 2014
defeated Kansas City 24-20
|Cleveland Browns||6||2||4||.333||December 7, 2006
lost to Pittsburgh 27-7
|October 3, 2013
defeated Buffalo 37-24
|Cincinnati Bengals||6||2||4||.333||November 30, 2006
defeated Baltimore 13-7
|October 31, 2013
lost to Miami 22-20
|Carolina Panthers||5||1||4||.200||December 22, 2007
lost to Dallas 20-13
|October 24, 2013
defeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-13
|Jacksonville Jaguars||5||1||4||.200||December 18, 2008
lost to Indianapolis 31-24
|December 5, 2013
|Tennessee Titans||5||1||4||.200||December 25, 2009
lost to San Diego 42-17
|November 14, 2013
lost to Indianapolis 30-27
|New Orleans Saints||6||2||4||.333||December 11, 2008
lost to Chicago 27-24
|October 30, 2014
defeated Carolina 28-10
|St. Louis Rams||4||2||2||.500||December 20, 2007
lost to Pittsburgh 41-24
|September 26, 2013
lost to San Francisco 35-11
|Buffalo Bills||4||1||3||.250||December 3, 2009
lost to N.Y. Jets 19-13
|November 13, 2014
lost to Miami 22-9
|Minnesota Vikings||4||1||3||.250||December 21, 2006
lost to Green Bay 9-7
|October 2, 2014
lost to Green Bay 42-10
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||3||1||2||.333||December 17, 2011
lost to Dallas 31-15
|September 18, 2014
lost to Atlanta 56-14
Upon the original launch of the Thursday and Saturday night games, few television service providers carried the NFL Network due to disputes over carriage contracts for the network. These disputes were magnified throughout the 2007 season, as two high profile matchups were to be broadcast by the network. The match up between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, both 10-1 at the time, drew large attention to the issue; the fact that such a high profile matchup would be unavailable to a majority of the country was seen as unacceptable to fans. This controversy was surpassed when NBC and CBS were given rights to simulcast the New England Patriots' season finale against the New York Giants, as they were 15–0 and vying to be the first team to finish the regular season with a perfect 16–0 record; the controversy was centered around the networks' actions denying exclusive over-the-air rights to local stations WWOR-TV and WCVB, who were the Giants' and Patriots' local broadcast homes for games on cable (the game aired on these stations, as well as on WCBS, WNBC, WBZ, and WHDH in the teams' market areas).
Game quality and viewership
Thursday Night Football games on NFL Network are among the lowest-rated nationally televised NFL broadcasts. Critics have argued that the games televised on Thursday Night Football have been of lower quality than other primetime games, as they often featured match-ups between lesser or poor-performing teams, and that the shortened rest between games triggered by Thursday games also has an effect on their overall quality. In an analysis by Sports on Earth writer Aaron Roberts, it was determined that that most Thursday games were of average or above-average quality in comparison to normal, non-primetime games, but that this was "by design" due to the leverage of other NFL broadcasters on how games are scheduled throughout the season (which traditionally prioritizes "major" games for either late-afternoon or Sunday/Monday nights).
The move of selected games to CBS brought improved ratings: the inaugural game was the highest-rated program of the night, with an audience share of 13.7 and an average of 20.7 million viewers, representing a 108% increase in ratings over the first NFL Network game in 2013. The game, whose ratings were boosted by coverage of the Ray Rice scandal also brought CBS its highest primetime ratings on a Thursday night since May 2006. While lower, at 9.6 million viewers, the week 3 game between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers was also the highest rated program of the night. The first four games of the package, however, resulted in blowout victories, and are still relatively lesser-viewed than the NFL's flagship Sunday night games.
As mentioned, a team needing to play a Thursday night game can result in a shortened rest period for players between games. On October 6, 2014, Arian Foster of the Houston Texans made a statement considering it hypocritical for the NFL to emphasize the safety of players (particularly in regards to concussions) while allowing its players to play a game on only 3 days' rest, which he considered to be equally "dangerous".
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- NFL announcers - Westwood One Sports.com
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- Smith, Brian (6 October 2014). "Texans’ Arian Foster says NFL Thursday night games are dangerous, hypocritical". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 6 October 2014.