Thursday Night Football

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Thursday Night Football
Thursday Night Football logo.png
The logo for Thursday Night Football for the 2014 NFL season.
Also known as Run to the Playoffs
Genre Sports
Starring Jim Nantz
Phil Simms
Tracy Wolfson
James Brown
Bill Cowher
Deion Sanders
Rich Eisen
Marshall Faulk
Steve Mariucci
Michael Irvin
Mike Carey
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 48
Production
Running time 180 minutes+
Broadcast
Original channel NFL Network (2006–present)
CBS (2014–; airing nine games, producing all games)
Original run November 23, 2006 (2006-11-23)  – present

Thursday Night Football is a presentation of National Football League (NFL) games broadcast by CBS and the NFL Network.

The eight-game package 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 appears; the package as a whole was known as the Run to the Playoffs. 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, as the league attempted to encourage providers to carry NFL Network on a basic service tier rather than in premium, sports-oriented packages. However, as with all other cable telecasts of NFL games, such as Monday Night Football, the league's own regulations require games to be syndicated to over-the-air stations in the local markets of the teams involved if they are exclusively televised on cable. In February 2014, it was announced that CBS Sports would take over production for Thursday Night Football for the 2014 NFL season under a one-year contract, and that CBS would nationally broadcast a selection of the games in simulcast with NFL Network.[1]

Background[edit]

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.[2] The other TV deals generated $3.735 billion per year over an eight-year period for CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and DirecTV.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Partnership with CBS[edit]

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 NFL 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.[3][4][5][6] The decision came as the league wished to heighten the profile of its Thursday night games, which had suffered from relatively poor viewership and advertising revenue in comparison to other games.[7]

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. Beginning on Week 2, CBS will air eight Thursday night games in simulcast with NFL Network, along with half of a new Saturday doubleheader for Week 16. The remaining games will remain exclusive to NFL Network. Talent from both networks would collaborate on pre-game, halftime, and post-game coverage.[1][8][9][10] The contract, valued at $275 million, will initially last for one year, but the NFL will have the option to renew.[1][7]

The league 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.[7] 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 will wear microphones in-game, and 4K cameras will be used to allow zoom-in shots during instant replays. CBS staff also cited experience with other joint sports broadcasting consortiums in the past, such as its joint coverage of the NCAA Men's basketball tournament with Turner Sports, as an advantage in its collaboration with NFL Network.[11]

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.[12][13][12][13] 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.[8][14]

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".[15][16] Following complaints by Rihanna on Twitter regarding the removal, the song was pulled entirely from future broadcasts.[17]

Coverage[edit]

Game announcers[edit]

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.

For the 2014 season, Jim Nantz (play-by-play) and Phil Simms (color) call the games.[10]

Pregame, halftime and postgame coverage[edit]

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.[11]

Radio coverage[edit]

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.[18]

Game announcers[edit]

Television[edit]

Current[edit]

Pre-game show
Primary
Secondary
Game coverage

Former[edit]

Radio[edit]

Current[edit]

Former[edit]

Results[edit]

Thursday Night Football all-time team standings[edit]

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
September 19, 2013
defeated Philadelphia 26-16
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 7 5 2 .714 December 16, 2006
defeated Atlanta 38-28
December 17, 2011
defeated Tampa Bay 31-15
Philadelphia Eagles 4 2 2 .500 November 27, 2008
defeated Arizona 48-20
December 13, 2012
lost to Kansas City 34-13
New York Giants 6 4 2 .667 December 30, 2006
defeated Washington 34-28
September 25, 2014
defeated Washington 45-14
San Francisco 49ers 6 4 2 .667 December 14, 2006
defeated Seattle 24-14
October 18, 2012
defeated Seattle 13-6
Denver Broncos 6 4 2 .667 November 23, 2006
lost to Kansas City 19-10
December 6, 2012
defeated Oakland 26-13
Atlanta Falcons 6 4 2 .667 December 16, 2006
lost to Dallas 38-28
September 18, 2014
defeated Buccaneers 56-14
Chicago Bears 6 3 3 .500 December 6, 2007
lost to Washington 24-16
October 9, 2013
defeated N.Y. Giants 27-20
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 3 1 2 .333 November 19, 2009
defeated Carolina 24-17
November 15, 2012
lost to Buffalo 19-14
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
December 6, 2012
lost to Denver 26-13
Cleveland Browns 6 2 4 .333 December 7, 2006
lost to Pittsburgh 27-7
October 3, 2013
defeated Buffalo 37-24
Cincinnati Bengals 5 2 3 .400 November 30, 2006
defeated Baltimore 13-7
December 13, 2012
defeated Philadelphia 34-13
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
defeatedHouston 27-20
Tennessee Titans 3 1 2 .333 December 25, 2009
lost to San Diego 42-17
October 11, 2012
defeated Pittsburgh 26-23
New Orleans Saints 5 1 4 .000 December 11, 2008
lost to Chicago 27-24
November 21, 2013
defeated Atlanta 17-13
St. Louis Rams 2 1 1 .500 December 20, 2007
lost to Pittsburgh 41-24
October 4, 2012
defeated Arizona 17-3
Buffalo Bills 3 1 2 .333 December 3, 2009
lost to N.Y. Jets 19-13
October 3, 2013
lost to Cleveland 37-24
Minnesota Vikings 3 0 3 .000 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
Detroit Lions 0 0 0 .000

Reception[edit]

Carriage[edit]

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 both bought the broadcast rights from the NFL Network to air 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).[19]

Game quality and viewership[edit]

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.[12][13] 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).[20][21]

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.[22][23][24][25] However, as of Week 6 of the 2014 season, each Thursday Night Football game has resulted in a blowout victory.[26]

Player safety[edit]

As mentioned, a team needing to play a Thursday night game can result in a shortened rest period for players between games.[12][13] 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".[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "NFL partners with CBS on 'Thursday Night Football' package". NFL.com. National Football League. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Ourand, John (2009-01-25). "Why NFL Network is on the sidelines". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  3. ^ "N.F.L. Explores New TV Deal". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  4. ^ "Sources: NFL Wants Thursday Games Simulcast On NFL Network". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Sources: ABC Planning To Bid For Thursday Night NFL Package". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "NFL Expected to Receive Bids to Air Thursday Games". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c "How CBS won Thursday night". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Rivalries Abound in CBS Thursday Night Football Slate". Adweek. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "CBS to broadcast eight Thursday night football games in 2014". CBS Sports. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "CBS to broadcast NFL games on Thursday in 2014". USA Today. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "CBS, NFL Network Begin Final Push for Thursday Night Football Launch". Sports Video Group. August 21, 2014. Retrieved September 3, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Execs expect strong NFL slate for CBS". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d Levy, Dan. "Is Thursday Night Football Hurting the NFL Brand?". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "2014 NFL Thursday Night Football schedule". Eye on Football. CBSSports.com. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "CBS announces changes to TNF coverage in wake of Ray Rice saga". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  16. ^ "The Ray-Riceless Ravens are playing Pittsburgh tonight. The opening act is Rihanna.". The Washington Post. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  17. ^ "Rihanna Dropped From Thursday Night Football After She Slams NFL and CBS". Time. 16 September 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  18. ^ NFL announcers - Westwood One Sports.com
  19. ^ Saunders, Dusty (2008-01-02). "COMMENTARY : Antitrust threat prompted NFL’s reversal". Rocky Mountain News. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  20. ^ "By design, Thursday Night Football is merely average.". Sports On Earth. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  21. ^ "Thursday Night Blights". Sports On Earth. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  22. ^ "CBS’ ‘Thursday Night Football’ Easily Dominates Thursday Ratings". Variety. PMC. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  23. ^ "'Thursday Night Football' ratings up from last year, down from last week". SBNation. Vox Media. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  24. ^ "CBS gets 13.7 rating, up 108 percent, for Ravens-Steelers". USA Today (Gannett Company). Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  25. ^ "Bucs Turning Point, Week 3: Worst Thursday Night Football game ever". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Smith, Brian (6 October 2014). "Texans’ Arian Foster says NFL Thursday night games are dangerous, hypocritical". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 

External links[edit]