Thursday Night Football.
One of the more polarizing NFL scheduling issues since the league decided to televise eight games of the 2006 season on its own network. For some fans, having more chances to watch football is a blessing. For those who don't have NFL Network, and don't want to hit a local establishment just to catch the game, it's just another example of the NFL's greed ruining the sport they love.
Consecutive seasons with the Saints heading to Atlanta on a short week, after bruising games against the 49ers, provide a reasonable argument as to how having games on Thursday creates unnecessary and unfair scheduling issues. Having an extra few days to prepare for a trip to Seattle could provide a tidy counter-argument, however, especially if the Seahawks hadn't had an entire bye-week for extra preparation against our team.
Regardless of how any given fan feels about Thursday Night Football, for years it has left some fans completely unable to catch some of their favorite games. Of course, not everyone's life schedules will fit around watching television. But the channel wasn't even available to subscribers of Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable company in the U.S., until the 2012 season. Now that TNF has given the NFL enough bargaining power to form favorable contracts for most major providers to carry the NFL Network, however, the time has come to stroke the golden goose again.
CBS will air eight early season games, which will also be simulcast on the NFL Network; so the NFL isn't losing anything by selling greater football accessibility to a major network. And the NFL Network will maintain its monopoly on the eight late-season games, which become much more lucrative as playoff excitement builds.
Since the NFL introduced Thursday Night Football, some of their exclusive games have been played on Saturdays, or even one Friday night in 2009 (to avoid conflicting with Christmas Eve activities on Thursday night) and one Sunday night in 2013. Coincidentally, both of those aberrant games involved the San Diego Chargers. When the game was scheduled for a Friday night, on December 25th, the Saturday Night Football moniker was replaced by Thursday Night Football: Special Edition, which now applies to all NFL Network games not held on Thursday nights.
Current reports indicate that all eight of the CBS games in 2014 will be held on Thursday nights, while two of the final eight games will be held on Saturday. But there's a twist. According to the NFL Communications release:
"The full slate of 16 regular-season games will be produced by CBS with its lead broadcasters and production team, including Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, on all Thursday night games. In a new twist, NFL Network hosts and analysts will be featured in the pregame, halftime and postgame shows along with CBS Sports announcers."
The current agreement between the NFL and CBS is for the 2014 season, with an additional year at the NFL's option. As per league regulations: all cable telecasts of NFL games, regardless of scheduling, must still be syndicated to over-the-air stations in the local markets of the teams involved.
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