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GenreSports
StarringBrad Nessler
Mike Mayock
Alex Flanagan
Rich Eisen
Deion Sanders
Steve Mariucci
Marshall Faulk
Michael Irvin
Theme music composerDavid Robidoux[1]
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes48
Production
Running time180 minutes+
Broadcast
Original channelNFL Network
Original runNovember 23, 2006 (2006-11-23) – present

Thursday Night Football is the brand name used by NFL Network for its schedule of live regular season telecasts of National Football League games on Thursday nights.

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. However, starting in 2008, NFL Network eliminated all but one of the Saturday night games as well as starting 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 2009 season, all references to Saturday Night Football were dropped and any games not played on Thursday were referred to as Thursday Night Football Special Editions. (The network has aired only one game thus far on a night other than Thursday or Saturday, a 2009 contest between the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans played on Friday, December 25 to avoid conflicting with Christmas Eve observances the previous evening.)

As of December 23, 2011, the Thursday Night Football franchise had aired a total of 61 games.

The game package is highly controversial mainly due to the relative unavailability of NFL Network compared to other cable stations such as ESPN or over-the-air affiliates. In most markets NFL Network is only available through premium tier packages, with war of words frequently being exchanged between the NFL and cable companies to get the channel moved to basic cable. Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable-company in the U.S., did not carry the channel at all until the 2012 season, when an agreement was finally reached to carry NFL Network for the first time. Due to anti-trust regulations the NFL is contractually obligated to offer the broadcast to a local over-the-air station. Therefore the away team and (assuming a sellout) the home team markets will see the game regardless of cable availability of the channel. This stipulation also applies to ESPN broadcasts of Monday Night Football. The Thursday Night Football package expanded to 13 games beginning in the 2012 season and will continue airing on NFL Network.

BackgroundEdit

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 (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 (now NBC Sports Network[2]) 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.[3] The other TV deals generated $3.735 billion per year over an eight-year period for CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and DirecTV.

TNT and ESPN were also reportedly interested in these games before they were awarded to NFL Network.

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.

Game announcersEdit

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 (analyst) will call Thursday night games beginning in 2011. There was no sideline reporter until 2009 when Scott Hanson assumed that role, however, Adam Schefter and Marshall Faulk of NFL Total Access contributed from the field at various times. Dick Vermeil served as color commentator for Saturday games in 2006.

Pregame, halftime and postgame coverageEdit

Each game telecast is preceded by NFL Total Access on Location. Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Deion Sanders, and Faulk report live from the site of each game. In 2008, they were joined by Warren Sapp. Schefter contributes insider information, and Kara Henderson and Michelle Beisner also contribute. The show generally begins three hours before game time (5 p.m. ET). The same Total Access team hosts the halftime and postgame shows.

In 2009, NFL Total Access on Location was replaced by Thursday Night Kickoff. The sponsors for Thursday Night Kickoff as of the 2010 NFL season are: Sears (pregame), Lexus (pre-kick) and Sprint Nextel (halftime).

BlackoutsEdit

Games are shown in approximately 45 million cable and satellite households, and on broadcast stations in the media markets of the participating teams. The home-team broadcast is technically subject to the NFL's blackout rule. However, since the games in the package generally feature top-flight teams which sell out their home games, it is unlikely that games will be blacked out. These games can also be seen in Canada on Sportsnet (except for Buffalo Bills games, which are instead seen on Citytv) and in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports.

Preseason gamesEdit

NFL Network also presented two preseason games before the 2006 season, using the staff that now works on this package. Spero Dedes was the play-by-play announcer, Sterling Sharpe was the analyst, and Kara Henderson was the sideline reporter.

Radio coverageEdit

Westwood One provides national radio broadcasts for the games, with Ian Eagle calling play-by-play, Randy Cross handling color analysis, and Hub Arkush on the sidelines for Thursday Night Football.

Game announcersEdit

TelevisionEdit

CurrentEdit

Pre-game show
Studio
Game coverage

FormerEdit

RadioEdit

CurrentEdit

  • Ian Eagle: Play-by-play (Thursday night, 2008–present)
  • Trent Green: Color analyst (Thursday night, 2010–present)

FormerEdit

ResultsEdit

2012 seasonEdit

Week Day Date Visiting Team Final Score Host Team Stadium Game Notes
2 Thursday September 13 Chicago Bears 10–23 Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field
3 Thursday September 20 New York Giants 36–7 Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium
4 Thursday September 27 Cleveland Browns 16–23 Baltimore Ravens M&T Bank Stadium
5 Thursday October 4 Arizona Cardinals 3–17 St. Louis Rams Edward Jones Dome
6 Thursday October 11 Pittsburgh Steelers 23–26 Tennessee Titans LP Field
7 Thursday October 18 Seattle Seahawks 6–13 San Francisco 49ers Candlestick Park
8 Thursday October 25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 36–17 Minnesota Vikings Mall of America Field at the
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
9 Thursday November 1 Kansas City Chiefs 13–31 San Diego Chargers Qualcomm Stadium
10 Thursday November 8 Indianapolis Colts 27–10 Jacksonville Jaguars EverBank Field
11 Thursday November 15 Miami Dolphins 14–19 Buffalo Bills Ralph Wilson Stadium
13 Thursday November 29 New Orleans Saints 13–23 Atlanta Falcons Georgia Dome
14 Thursday December 6 Denver Broncos 26–13 Oakland Raiders O.co Coliseum
15 Thursday December 13 Cincinnati Bengals 34–13 Philadelphia Eagles Lincoln Financial Field

Thursday Night Football all-time team standingsEdit

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 23, 2012.

TeamGames PlayedWinsLossesTiesWin Pct.First AppearanceMost Recent Appearance
Indianapolis Colts 660 1.000 November 22, 2007
defeated Atlanta 31-13
November 8, 2012
defeated Jacksonville 27-10
Kansas City Chiefs 321 .667 November 23, 2006
defeated Denver 19-10
November 1, 2012
lost to San Diego 31-13
Pittsburgh Steelers 752 .714 December 7, 2006
defeated Cleveland 27-7
October 11, 2012
lost to Tennessee 26-23
New York Jets 431 .750 November 13, 2008
defeated New England 34-31
November 17, 2011
lost to Denver 17-13
San Diego Chargers 541 .800 December 4, 2008
defeated Oakland 34-7
November 1, 2012
defeated Kansas City 31-13
Dallas Cowboys 752 .714 December 16, 2006
defeated Atlanta 38-28
December 17, 2011
defeated Tampa Bay 31-15
Philadelphia Eagles 422 .500 November 27, 2008
defeated Arizona 48-20
December 13, 2012
lost to Cincinnati 34-13
New York Giants 431 .750 December 30, 2006
defeated Washington 34-28
September 20, 2012
defeated Carolina 36-7
San Francisco 49ers 642 .667 December 14, 2006
defeated Seattle 24-14
October 18, 2012
defeated Seattle 13-6
Denver Broncos 642 .667 November 23, 2006
lost to Kansas City 19-10
December 6, 2012
defeated Oakland 26-13
Atlanta Falcons 642 .667 December 16, 2006
lost to Dallas 38-28
November 29, 2012
defeated New Orleans 23-13
Baltimore Ravens 532 .600 November 30, 2006
lost to Cincinnati 13-7
September 27, 2012
defeated Cleveland 23-16
Chicago Bears 523 .400 December 6, 2007
lost to Washington 24-16
September 13, 2012
lost to Green Bay 23-10
Seattle Seahawks 220 1.00 December 14, 2006
lost to San Francisco 24-14
October 18, 2012
lost to San Francisco 13-6
Green Bay Packers 220 1.00 December 21, 2006
defeated Minnesota 9-7
September 13, 2012
defeated Chicago 23-10
Arizona Cardinals 312 .500 November 27, 2008
lost to Philadelphia 48-20
October 4, 2012
lost to St. Louis 17-3
Washington Redskins 211 .500 December 30, 2006
lost to N.Y. Giants 34-28
December 6, 2007
defeated Chicago 24-16
New England Patriots 211 .500 December 29, 2007
defeated N.Y. Giants 38-35
November 13, 2008
lost to N.Y. Jets 34-31
Miami Dolphins 312 .333 November 19, 2009
defeated Carolina 24-17
November 15, 2012
lost to Buffalo 19-14
Houston Texans 312 .333 December 13, 2007
defeated Denver 31-13
December 22, 2011
lost to Indianapolis 19-16
Oakland Raiders 312 .500 December 23, 2006
lost to Kansas City 20-9
December 6, 2012
lost to Denver 26-13
Cleveland Browns 514 .200 December 7, 2006
lost to Pittsburgh 27-7
September 27, 2012
lost to Baltimore 23-16
Cincinnati Bengals 523 .333 November 30, 2006
defeated Baltimore 13-7
December 13, 2012
defeated Philadelphia 34-13
Carolina Panthers 404 .000 December 22, 2007
lost to Dallas 20-13
September 20, 2012
lost to New York Giants 36-7
Jacksonville Jaguars 404 .000 December 18, 2008
lost to Indianapolis 31-24
November 8, 2012
lost to Indianapolis 27-10
Tennessee Titans 312 .333 December 25, 2009
lost to San Diego 42-17
October 11, 2012
defeated Pittsburgh 26-23
New Orleans Saints 404 .000 December 11, 2008
lost to Chicago 27-24
November 29, 2012
lost to Atlanta 23-13
St. Louis Rams 211 .500 December 20, 2007
lost to Pittsburgh 41-24
October 4, 2012
defeated Arizona 17-3
Buffalo Bills 321 .600 December 3, 2009
lost to N.Y. Jets 19-13
November 15, 2012
defeated Miami 19-14
Minnesota Vikings 202 .000 December 21, 2006
lost to Green Bay 9-7
October 25, 2012
lost to Tampa Bay 36-17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 211 .500 December 17, 2011
lost to Dallas 31-15
October 25, 2012
defeated Minnesota 36-17
Detroit Lions 000 .000

Digital on-screen graphicsEdit

File:NFLNetworkScreenshot.PNG

When the games started showing on NFL Network in 2006, a red score banner that spanned the top of the TV screen was used. The team logos were in oval shapes, like most NFL Network programs used since the start of the 2006 NFL season, and with their respective scores next to the ovals. During the Texas Bowl, and the Insight Bowl, the score banner was gold, instead of red.

In 2007, the on-screen graphics went to a complete overhaul. The scoreboard is located at the middle of the top of the screen. The team logos in ovals were kept; with the visiting team's logo and their respective score or on the left side, and the home team's logo and score are on the opposite side. In the middle, there is a red background, with the game clock in white, yellow bars to indicate quarter, and the NFL Network logo at the bottom. When a touchdown is scored, the scoring teams side opens, and a light goes through, revealing "TOUCHDOWN" in white in the team's color background. The side closes, and what appears to be a black graphic "wipes" away the score, thus changing it. Like in 2006, the scoreboard got a change in color, during bowl coverage, except that the red area was light orange.

In 2008, the on-screen graphics had minor changes, including listing the quarter underneath the game clock instead of using the yellow bars from 2007.

On Thanksgiving in 2009, NFL Network introduced timeout indicators above the team logos and their respective scores.

In 2010, the on-screen graphics underwent a complete overhaul, including the scoreboard being moved to the bottom of the screen and timeout indicators below the team abbreviations and logos.

ControversiesEdit

The move to air games on the NFL Network has been criticized for various reasons

SchedulingEdit

Moving Thursday and Saturday night games to NFL Network has caused problems in the scheduling of other night games. In the past, Thursday and Saturday were used as overflow nights in the event that playing a Sunday night or Monday night game was not possible or desirable (for instance, during the World Series, the final week of the season, or Christmas Eve) so that the respective broadcaster could be compensated. The new television contract with NFL Network eliminated that leeway, which has especially impacted Monday night. In 2007, not only did ESPN have to air a doubleheader on Week 1 to compensate for the lack of a game in Week 17, but the league also had to play a game on Christmas Eve, a day when the league has historically avoided playing in prime time. The game was played between two West Coast teams, so the kickoff was at 5:00 p.m. local time.

This problem was rectified in the 2011 television contract extension, which eliminated Saturday night games from NFL Network and allowed ESPN the right to move select Monday Night games to Saturday. In 2012, Christmas Eve falls on a Monday. Rather than having a game on Monday night, ESPN will instead broadcast a Saturday Night game on December 22 between the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions.

CarriageEdit

Upon the original launch of the Thursday and Saturday night games, few television service providers have 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). The game was the first ever three-network simulcast in NFL history, and first simulcast since NBC and CBS both aired Super Bowl I in 1967.[4]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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